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Thursday, April 7, 2016


She is full of years. They rattle in her head and squeak in her knees, and she embraces their rhythm, as a drumbeat for moving ever forward.

She is full of sparks. They sizzle in her brain and flash in her eyes, and she circuits them to her fingers, where they manifest in beauty.

She is full of meanings. They grow in her heart and effuse her whole being, and she shares them in words, as they seed in other hearts.

She is full of fires. They spin out from her presence and illuminate her soul, and she compels them to burnish those willing and those not.

See her.  Hair turned to snow by fortitude. Face mapped by hardship and joy. Gait marked by striving.

Pity the fool who takes her for an old woman, this rare and formidable instrument forged by God.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bon Voyage for Our Mothers: From Here to There

May she with no concern cross a familiar room and
head out through a sun-filled doorway.

Watch an exuberant sunset fade to deep sky pricked by light from ancient suns.
Listen to the innocent at bedtime blithely relinquish his cares to God.
Nestle into pillows and mattress shaped over time by her and the beloved.

May she lie down to her rest and awaken to

Breathe air heavy with celestial fragrance.
See colors never painted till now.
Hear love in untold new harmonies.
Shed tears of joy like confetti falling from the ship’s rail onto the dear not-yet departed.

And finally

Feel the fresh rush of her true and everlasting life.

Rebecca Kavanaugh - December 13, 2007

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Six Word Short Story. And how writing helps deal with life.

First, here’s an exercise sure to stretch your writing muscles. At the end of it are my thoughts on how writing helps us deal with life.

The exercise is the famous “six-word short story”, most often credited to Ernest Hemingway. I have heard, though, the author Margaret Atwood reel off an impressive assortment of the same six-word short story format. Apparently it’s a favorite pastime for her.

Lots of folks try their hand at it. Here are a few.

Failed SAT. Lost scholarship. Invented rocket.
- William Shatner

Heaven falls. Details at eleven.
- Robert Jordan

Corpse parts missing. Doctor buys yacht.
- Margaret Atwood

And here’s a poignant one credited to Hemingway:
- For Sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

Coming down to a lesser level of expertise, (smile), I wrote the following ones.

1.    He winked. She smiled. Bells chimed.

Or is this version better?

He winked. She smiled. Rings exchanged.

The first one is more ambiguous, while the second one definitely implies they married. Which one do you like best, and why?

2.    Flash flood. Car submerged. Requiem said.

This second one is the result of a recent, tragic accident that weighs on my heart, and writing this simple six-word piece is part of how I’m dealing with it. Putting words, however simple, to the incident helps me process it and make room for it in my consciousness without keeping me in a swirling eddy of sadness. 

On October 30th, we experienced a sudden, tremendous, and extended downpour of rain out here in the country. People who live in this area usually know to avoid the low-water crossings because of the danger of flash floods. The water over the road may not look deep, but if it can reach the body of the vehicle, at all, it can easily sweep the vehicle off the road. You’re stuck to the road only by the contact surface area of four tires, remember, and a flood can easily overwhelm that traction.

A short-term resident who lived in the hills across the creek attempted to drive over the low water crossing at the creek. You can predict the ending of this sad story. The car went into the creek. Days later, local authorities found the deceased, several miles downstream. The car wreckage remains twisted between large boulders in the creek. Right where I am fond of looking down into the woods and the waters.

I think of the first line of Keats’ poem Endymion, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever:”. Perhaps not. The creek has always been a thing of beauty for me, while I respected the dangerous, mud-colored churning waters frequently witnessed from the safety of cliffs above. Today the creek’s spring is crystal clear, easily revealing the world that lies below its surface as it burbles a pleasing song. Is it a lorelei, luring me to death?

No. It reminds me that nature is blameless, without motive, and not a mechanism of mankind. We are wrongfully audacious and foolish if we think otherwise. With this in mind, I readjust my perspective, thank God for the beauty, and say an Ave for those lost to the flood, wherever it may swell.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Launching Atlantis, May 2010

A wonderful writing coach, Paula LaRocque, publishes a remarkable blog where she encourages three attributes of good writing: accuracy, brevity, and clarity.

Lucky enough to participate in a meeting where Paula was the guest speaker, I learned about her “Five Letter Exercise” for writers. Here’s how you do it.
  • Pick a topic that you’ll discuss in one or two paragraphs.
  • Make sure the story has an actor and that the actor actually does something.
  • Use words that have no more than five letters, each.

Also lucky enough to witness one of the last shuttle launches conducted by NASA, I did the Five Letter Exercise on the topic of the launch. Here, below, is the result. 
I double-dog-dare you to do this exercise, yourself. 
You’ll be happily surprised by what you write.

The crowd mills like ants with one mind. In the midst, we find our spot on the grass and stake it out. Down go bags, shoes, and hats to nail it “ours.” Too wound up to eat, we still reach for a snack. We watch the huge clock, tall as a man, and wish to push the hands, to move the count from 10 to zero. Time seems to sleep, while I could never be more awake.

Then we begin. “O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave,” we renew our vow to the flag. Past the dull blue water, the tower still holds the bird, but only just. Tons of steam hiss and find their voice. The voice rises to a roar, and in a slow climb the bird pulls free of the tower. Now, with a burst, she flies! Waves of noise pound us, while my heart wants to leap from my body and fly, too. Tears flow. Arms hug. No stiff poses, today, for the image that will, for all my life, burn in my head. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Rise and shine.

It started out as our niece began emailing a quick pic that she had taken while out on her run on a Florida beach, at dawn. Then she added her other aunt, in California, to the emails and then she added her sister in Tennessee (notice how little sister got added last, huh? They do that to each other because they think it’s funny).

Her photos have grown more and more breathtaking, as the images of clouds over the Atlantic or the intricately patterned sand become increasingly complex. Has she ramped up her photographic skills? Has she accomplished this with her new foofoo phone? Is she buying these stunners online and passing them off as hers (I’m just kidding!)?

The thing is, it's an example of how high tech can actually be "high touch". For a few minutes most mornings, we're all connected by something beautiful or funny or touching. The aunt in California says she sleepily hears the beep of the text coming in to her phone in the wee hours (remember it's 6AM on the East Coast and 3AM on the West Coast) and smiles, knowing it's the morning hello from her family on the other side of the country.

We all sleep a little better, these days.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Welcome. A rose by any other name...

You'll see many subjects discussed in this blog. The first one is Writers and Authors: What's the Difference?

I recently attended a program, at the Bulverde/Spring Branch Library, where a panel of authors talked for two hours about writing, publishing, marketing, and many related ideas. They made a distinction between writers and authors --- clearly, to them, one is an author when one is PUBLISHED. They were all published and, consequently, authors. I liked each author and appreciated the obvious effort expended to reach that point in their pilgrims' progress.

Writer vs. Author. I had never made that fine a cut on it, in my mind. Writing for me is a lot like an itch that I must scratch. Sometimes it's a relief, but sometimes it makes the itch worse. It's an urge that persists back there in my brain while I'm concentrating on other necessary things, and it isn't always a pleasant experience. There have been days and nights when I've refused to let the urge take hold because life was demanding much of me at the time. Or maybe I have simply been lazy.

Funny, that word "author". Does it make a difference to me what you call me, if words I write are published? I think not. "Writer" is comfortable, like that pair of walking shoes whose heels I've worn down. No need to dress up for "writer", while I'd have to look in the closet, twice, to be fitted out as "author". 

The clock just chimed, and it's time for me to put on the "writer" shoes and take Lulu for her lunchtime walk.