Just a quick update to say that my ebook of poetry, Past Life, is now available through Barnes and Noble in addition to Smashwords.
After writing poetry for decades, publishing single pieces here and there occasionally, I finally put together a collection and published it as an ebook.
Past Life is available on Smashwords.
I don’t go out a whole lot. But three friends in one of my writers’ groups all have birthdays in the first half of November. So we decided to have a non-writing brunch yesterday at a locally owned restaurant.
Here’s a fun thing (for book lovers anyway) that will happen if you eat at Cafe Berlin in Columbia, Missouri. Instead of bringing your bill in one of those vinyl folder things, the waiter will tuck it into a used book. I must look like a fun person or a cowgirl, because this was the title presented to me.
Of course, the danger to the restaurant staff in presenting books to avid readers is that we spend time reading before paying our bills. The six women at my table had a few hoots from this before we left.
It’s a quick read, full of wise, pithy bits of advice.
“Avoid becoming emotional over a jackass.”
“Convincing yourself that a bad idea is a good idea is a bad idea.”
You get the idea.
On a final note, how great is the name Gladiola Montana?
p.s. The food was also excellent.
Early this evening, Frieda and I went to a book release and discovered someone had left a Bird scooter blocking one side of the bike rack in front of the bookshop. Rude. Frieda was able to fit in on the other side, though.
More important than parking is that my friend just published her first book, Equillian’s Key, the beginning of a fantasy adventure series. Check out this trailer.
Now seems like a good time to repost this. RIP Mary Oliver.
“And there is the thing that one does, the needle one plies, the work, and within that work a chance to take thoughts that are hot and formless and to place them slowly and with meticulous effort into some shapely heat-retaining form, even as the gods, or nature, or the soundless wheels of time have made forms all across the soft, curved universe…” – Mary Oliver, Upstream
I’m a big fan of Mary Oliver’s writing. She makes connections, or rather shows connections, that are not obvious on the surface. Her descriptions of nature do more than make you want to re-read the passage. They make you want to go see the world for yourself and then re-read the passage. Her poems are bereft of sentimentality, but full of mindful observation. And I can guarantee there’s some sweat behind those words.
Here’s the thing about writing poetry — it takes work…
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How’s your blood pressure? Edging up a little, like everyone else’s? Are you feeling overwhelmed by the daily news? We all could use some reading material that will buoy us right about now. I have put together a list for just this purpose. I’m sticking to nonfiction for now, out of a personal desire to remember the positives in the real world. Some of these books contain tragic elements, but also the overcoming of such. Here are a dozen titles I hope will comfort, inspire, amuse and make you feel better about the world.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba. My son told me this was the most inspiring book he’s ever read. Possibly the world’s most resourceful teenager builds a windmill from scraps he’s foraged and brings electricity to his village in Malawi.
Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery. The story of an average woman who decided to do something with herself after leaving an abusive marriage. She liked to walk. Long story short, we can thank her for the preservation of the Appalachian Trail.
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. I never would have picked up this book if it had not been chosen for our community-wide reading selection a few years ago. Now I recommend it to everyone. If you’re in the mood for a tale of overcoming adversity to achieve something great through the virtues of teamwork and cooperation, this book is for you.
Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling. A small volume containing the Harry Potter author’s commencement speech on the benefits of failure.
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan. The subtitle for this is “How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less.” If we could bestow posthumous Nevertheless She Persisted prizes, Evelyn Ryan would surely qualify. A genius at advertising jingles, she kept her family in laundry detergent, appliances and adequate housing by winning contest after contest.
All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot. Funny and (mostly) affirming anecdotes from the life of a country veterinarian. There are a few sequels if this one leaves you wanting more.
Outcasts United by Warren St. John Refugee youths from disparate backgrounds come together to form an American soccer team.
Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit. Why there’s still hope.
The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman. Even curmudgeons need something uplifting occasionally.
Lunarbaboon by Chris Grady. Cartoons depicting the life of a woke moon monkey dad.
She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel. I laughed. I cried. I cheered, as the author’s mother fights her way out of the depression that kept her glued to the couch for years and overcomes every obstacle to make a better life for herself.
Dear Data by Giorgia Lupi. Where art, friendship and data all merge, you’ll find this book.
I saw a job listing for a meditative librarian. But on second read it was metadata librarian.
Nonetheless, now that the position of meditative librarian has been created, even if only in my own mind, I aim to fill it. I will be your meditative librarian. Let’s begin.
Find a comfortable position, in a meditation hammock perhaps.
Feel the weight of the book in your hands. Allow the pages to open naturally.
Breathe in the new book or old book smell.
Feel the weight of the words in your soul.
If reading leads to thoughts, no matter. Let those thoughts occur naturally with no resistance. When you notice them, simply turn your attention back to your reading.
Feelings may arise. Allow them to be.
Let yourself sink into the words on the page. Feel the connection to the world created therein. Hold the characters in your mind. May they be happy. May they be healthy. May they overcome the story’s conflicts.
You are as one with the other readers who have inhabited this same world. All are interconnected.
Allow yourself to continue to read, not trying to control or direct your emotional responses.
Breathe in, rising action. Breathe out, denouement.
When you are ready, end the reading meditation gradually. Close the covers slowly. Take a few cleansing breaths. Stretch and allow your gaze once again to take in your surroundings.
Remember that a regular reading practice contributes to health and well-being. Set aside a time every day if possible.
Boundless, a publication of the Unbound Book Festival, is a collection of many wonderful stories. I am honored to have one of mine among them. If you’re burning with curiosity to find out what a story called Posthumous Divorce could possibly be about, click on the title (first word of the blog post) to order the book on Amazon.
August 12 is World Elephant Day. These amazing creatures are in crisis and it’s largely down to human behavior. In the past ten years, their numbers have decreased 62%.
See the World Elephant Day website for more information, including ways we can help.
Since education is always an important component of any venture, here’s a recommended reading list:
Last Chain on Billie by Carol Bradley. An examination of one elephant’s life in the context of a shameful history of abuse of circus animals in the U.S.
The Eye of the Elephant by Delia Owens and Mark Owens. The story of how one couple took on elephant poachers in Zambia and did their best to assist local communities at the same time.
Ivory: Power and Poaching in Africa by Keith Somerville. The ivory trade is the biggest threat elephants face. Poachers have decimated populations in order to get tusks to trade. Worse, much of the profit ends up funding terrorism. Don’t buy ivory!
One easy thing we all can do is limit our consumption of foods containing palm oil. Palm oil plantations have wiped out swaths of habitat for elephants and other wildlife.
Happy World Elephant Day! Let’s celebrate by working to save them.
Home is the sweetest word there is. – Laura Ingalls Wilder
Reading the Little House series as a child, I was enthralled by the many adventures, big and small, of the Ingalls family: fording the river with a horse and wagon, fights with Nellie Oleson, twisting switch grass into kindling. I identified with tom-boy Laura, climbing trees and failing to keep her dress clean. Her detailed descriptions of home life also mesmerized me, as I read about Pa making his own bullets for hunting and Ma churning butter. Re-reading the books as an adult left me with an impression of a family always searching for home and never really finding it. (Of course, we now know Charles Ingalls, Laura’s father, brought on some of his own trouble by attempting to stake claim to land that belonged to Native Americans, and a couple of similar questionable actions.)
After such a nomadic upbringing, Laura finally found her forever home when she and husband Almanzo moved to Rocky Ridge Farm near Mansfield, Missouri. She settled in as a young wife and mother in her twenties and lived there for more than sixty years, until her death in 1957, at age ninety. In the late 1920s, the Wilders’ daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, had a more modern house built for her parents half a mile down the road, and they stayed in it for a few years before homesickness brought them back to finish out their years in the house they’d built themselves.
I live only a three-hour drive from the Wilder homes. After decades of talking about it, I finally made the pilgrimage last week. My husband was a good sport and went along with me. There may have been mentions of a fishing pond near our rental cabin to lure him into the adventure.
Both Rocky Ridge houses have tours on a regular schedule, and there’s also a separate museum building on the grounds. In case you’re planning a trip, the museum is where you buy the tickets for the tours. I wish they allowed photography inside any of the facilities, but since they don’t, you’ll have to take my word for what we saw.
Pa’s fiddle! The museum has Pa’s fiddle in a display case. It’s in remarkable shape, and looking at it brought to mind many scenes from the books, from Pa playing the children to sleep with lullabies to big dances at the grandparents’. They also have Laura’s blue china cow creamer. I don’t remember which book has the description of it; but I do remember it being mentioned.
The homes themselves have been restored and preserved with as many original furnishings as possible, much of it hand-crafted by Almanzo. There’s some incredibly durable linoleum in the frame house that is not reproduction, or so we were informed. The Christmas Clock Almanzo gifted to Laura still hangs on the wall, ticking away. Laura’s writing desk is there. The original house is well-designed, but the ceilings are low. Our tour guide reminded us the Wilders were not big people. Laura topped out at 4’11” and Almanzo stood 5’4″. Keep that in mind when you think of him hauling bushels of wheat through a blizzard to save the town in The Long Winter.
I have a hard time on tours like this. It means so much to me to get to be in Laura’s home and see the actual objects described in her books, lending immediacy to the stories. But you can’t touch anything and you have to move on through when they tell you to. No standing and studying the details of any one thing until you’re satiated. I understand why and agree with it on principle. Gee willikers, though (sorry for the wooden swearing, Ma Ingalls), I wanted to soooo much. I experienced an intense desire to stay for hours, to sit it in her chairs and run my hand over her desk. Don’t worry, I kept control. Barely.
The final step of our literary mission took us to the Wilder resting place.
Gone, yet still here in so many important ways.