Tag: stories (Page 2 of 2)

of likenesses and lightnesses

Candle

when my children were tots, we’d bundle them up and drive around looking at the christmas lights, refining our aesthetic senses, you know, each of us awarding our own best display award that grew more competitive every year under our increasingly trained and discerning eyes. just when i’d definitively declare that i preferred the white lights over the colored lights, we’d come upon a house that was obviously festooned by someone with a knack for design and a love for color. we all panted at the sight of trees (not christmas trees but plain ole’ yard trees) decked out in strands of white lights – initially because even with the gentlest breeze, they look like they’re twinkling and because they were ordinary yard trees pulled into the holiday celebration and what’s not to love about that), but it didn’t take all that long for us to pity the trees given a single, solitary strand of lights, poorly and thoughtlessly placed, preferring the trees lavished in white lights – so many it looked like they were an organic part of the tree, like they were well-lit lichen. (we developed a new degree of respect for the more miserly, haphazardly lit trees though, when we began to imagine them being dressed by a well-meaning but blind mother.)

when the children got too old for such things, andy and i weren’t nearly ready to bring this tradition to a close, so we bundled up my 90-something great aunts, put them in the backseat, and drove them around to look at christmas lights. one year, as we passed through the center of this town in south north central georgia (i’ll wait while you figure that out) (that’ll take too long, so a hint: it’s my clever way of saying “landlocked”) on the way to deliver them home, aunt lucy looked out the window at fayetteville’s main street awashed in well-lit snowflakes and said, “Irene, don’t the people who live on the water have the purtiest view?”

we had one or two trees in our own yard that we festooned with white lights annually, andy and i, and with the repeated effort, we learned how to apply them so that they didn’t look like what it were: trees dressed by a well-meaning but blind mother. as we struggled with ladders and branches and never enough lights, i remembered the year daddy outlined the roof of our house in blue lights. (using a single color instead of every hue in the crayon box simply wasn’t done in those days.) (mother was always cutting edge when it came to design.) daddy put those lights up and didn’t take them back down for something like 949 days.

an aside: that particular story remembered at that particular moment in that particular context is when i learned about what my friend jane cunningham calls reframing – a most helpful tool when dealing with family memories, if you catch my drift.

Tomsmithornaments1

my christmas decorations this year include the red candle that kicked off this post (a free gift with purchase at a local antique store.) (using my highly trained and discerning eye, i chose the one that hadn’t been burned yet.) (the buckeyes were free, too.) (at lest i think they were.) and these two adorables created by my friend tom smith. i LOVE them, don’t you? there’s such a playful spirit about them. they’re just downright fun. the small santa with the black eye and the blue beard (reference to folktales or temperature, tom?) and the larger santa hobbled together from an assortment of tender scraps and bits. (just imagine this larger santa at the office christmas party. he’s probably the guy hanging out by the copy machine the entire time.) it’s the definition of art for me: taking something out of its intended use and giving it fresh life in a new context. now that i think about it, being friends with tom is like having christmas every day. he’s a treasured friend who challenges me with his thoughtful, well-placed questions that are always asked (or at least received) as gentle nudges and window openings (often windows that have long since been painted shut); delights me with our conversations (which often come together like his artwork – a gregarious pulling together of all sorts of odd things that initially seem unrelated); and encourages me with his keen insightfulness (that always makes me feel like he finds me intelligent and capable and maybe like he sees more in me than i present). (if you find yourself wondering if his mother was also a formidable teacher, you’d be right.)

you know, now that i think about it, what i’m really doing is decorating my studio with self portraits of and by tom. no lights required.

108

Her 108th drawing:

5 108 4 erased

My 108th stitching:

108collage1

Day 2 of the Storytelling Festival started with a car pulling into the parking space right beside us. “Hey,” called out the smiling woman driving, “didn’t we park next to y’all yesterday, too?” They did. How’s that for a needle in the haystack moment?

I didn’t sleep so good last night, and during one of the many wake ups that punctuated the night, I hatched an idea. An idea that pulls together several things I love. I’ll tell you more later, but listen: after we parked and made our way to the bus, I spied a man’s work glove. Husband was kinda’ channeling his dad this morning, so I just bent over, moved the glove from the road to the sidewalk, then kept going. But as we waited in line for the bus to arrive and ferry us over to the storytelling festival, that glove called out to me, saying “Hey, remember your idea? I’m where you start.” And nothing would do but to run back (and I mean run because we were third in line, the bus was coming, and remember – hubs was already not in the best mood), pick up that glove, and tuck it in my pocketbook. We didn’t lose our place in line, and I smiled all day thinking about that special find, reaching in and patting it every now and then. Found some other objects during the day, too, as you can see in the photo. It was a good day for found object loot. There’s a story in these objects – you know there is – and it’s already brewing. Hey, take a close look at that turning leaf – do you see the face? Here’s another shot:

Leaf1

~~~~~~~~~

She is my developmentally disabled sister-in-law, Nancy,
and I am Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her.
Go here to start at the beginning and read your way current.
And pssst: there’s a pinterest board, too.

107

First, she draws:

5 107 1 erased

Then I stitch:

107b

If you like stories, take a few minutes to trot over here and help yourself. We’re at the storytelling festival this weekend. I bought myself a thimble for this year’s souvenir – an old, well-used, dented, and tarnished thimble. Seems about right.

Thimble2

~~~~~~~~~

She is my developmentally disabled sister-in-law, Nancy,
and I am Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her.
Go here to start at the beginning and read your way current.
And pssst: there’s a pinterest board, too.

stories, stories, everywhere and not a need for drink

Tentop1

Their father was strict – oh my goodness gracious, he was strict. He worked in a garage, and that’s probably why he wouldn’t let them wear shorts outside the house. Fortunately for the older sister, you could set a clock by her father, so in the summer she could lay out in the sun in her swimsuit and still make it inside, change, and be presentable and ready for supper when her daddy got home. They had an aunt named Mary (but everybody called her Aunt Mert cause they all had nicknames. Their Uncle Howard was called Paps. See, I told you: everybody had nicknames.) Aunt Mert was a mess. I mean that woman was a mischief maker. Once, when she was a teenager, Mert’s mother and grandmother dropped her off at church, and as soon as their car rounded the corner, Aunt Mert hopped in her friend’s car and off they went. But tragedy struck: the car wrecked. Flipped over, I’m telling you, and without even slowing down to check on anybody, Aunt Mert scooted on back up to the house where she was when her Mother and Grandmother got in from church. “Goodness gracious,” the grandmother said, “such a wreck you’ve never seen. Those poor young people flipped their new car. What a mess they left all over the road.” “Well, I hope none of them got hurt too bad,” Aunt Mert said. And I want you to know that the mother and grandmother never found out Mert was a passenger in that car.

Door1

Her first house cost $1600. Didn’t have an indoor bathroom, so they saved their money and took up part of the kitchen to build a bathroom. It was her mother’s idea. Her mother was real stupid until this woman got married, then her mother turned smart again.

Clock1

They came down umpteen years ago – 27 or 28 as they recollect – with a couple who they were friends with at that time. The couple moved from Connecticut to Charlotte, NC. After settling into their new home in Charlotte, the friends called one day. “Y’all want to come down and go to the storytelling festival with us?” The husband thought that was the most ridiculous thing he ever heard, so they declined. The next year, the friends called again: “Y’all want to go with us to the storytelling festival?” and this time the couple couldn’t think of a good excuse, so down they trotted from Connecticut to Charlotte where they loaded into one car and came over to the festival. That was either 27 or 28 years ago. Neither one can really remember. (This year the Charlotte couple is in Croatia and are appalled that the folks from Connecticut came to the storytelling festival without them.)

Corn

“Can you hear from back here?” she asked as she sat down next to me. “If they’ll be quiet,” I said, nodding to the two men sitting behind us. “If they make too much noise, we’ll just slap ’em,” a solution that seemed to tickle her. Turns out she’s the wife and grandmother of the men sitting behind us, so you might say that we hit it off right from the start. Her husband is named Brick, named after his Uncle Brick who grew up in Mississippi, two houses down from Tennessee Williams. By all accounts, Tennessee Williams was rather effeminate, and it doesn’t take a great store of imagination to know that made Tennessee a likely target for a fella named Brick. But then Tennessee grew up and wrote Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. With a character named and modeled after, you guessed it: Brick. That very childhood nemesis.

Steeple

Musicians accompany themselves and sing on the sidewalks. Streets are closed. Schools declare today a holiday and rent out their lots and buses. Churches open their doors and sell you soup, sandwich, desserts, beverage, cornbread, and crackers – all you can eat – for $7/person. For three full (and I do mean FULL) days, stories are told under big tents set up all over Jonesborough, Tennessee. The air is filled with stories, and not all of ’em are told on stage . . .

Pumpkin2

nourishment

“where were you and what were you doing when you heard about world war 2?” i ask my mother. i’d never thought to ask her that before, and i can’t tell you why not, but at least i ask her now.

she tells me that she was at school, so she didn’t hear about it till the day after. says she was 13 years old, so most of her reaction came from watching her parents. she can still remember the look on her daddy’s face, she says, then she goes on to tell me about how her mother preserved food – a lot of food, even canning biscuits and water. “if she’d thought about it and we had a place, i’m sure she would’ve built a bomb shelter,” mother says, and though she was remembering down one road, i remembered how i set about building a bomb shelter in 4th grade, complete with food and pillows and books and board games and safety/preparedness drills.

i knew my grandmother canned food – her pantry was always filled from her larger than large summer garden – but i never knew till that day last week that grandmother and i had preservation and planning for the future – our future and our loved ones’ futures – in common.

[insert face-size smile]

don’t you love stories that connect you with your ancestors? that help explain quirky characteristics about yourself? what questions would you ask one of your ancestors? you can do it without sitting next to them in the car, you know. just get our your pen and paper, write the question, then be quiet and see what appears.

one of the best questions i asked my now-deceased daddy is “what would the 40-year old you like like the 40 year old me to know about being 50?” (hint: you don’t have to ask living people face-to-face, and you don’t have to ask only deceased people these questions that your inquiring mind wants to know.)

:: – ::

p.s. my mother also told me that because of world war 2, there weren’t many school teachers to be found, so they had to take the fella who got lost walking the 3 blocks from boardinghouse to school. she also told me about one c harkness, a young woman who daddy asked out once. but, mother hastened to add, they never actually went out. i’m thinking there’s more to this story. stay tuned . . .

:: – ::

i spent this afternoon cooking and filling the freezer of my son who lives in denver (note: far too far away, if you ask me) with vegetable soup, lasagne, and spaghetti sauce. (that’s when i remembered the story my mother told me about grandmother preserving food in anticipation of possible ripple effects of world war 2.) today’s altar is about nourishment . . . from stories and food and love.

Nourish

More about 365 Altars

day after day after day

Fether1

How we feel about events, respond to them, transform them and judge them, is a matter of the shape of our spirit, the corrugation of the feathers in our wings. And this, the shape of our spirit, our way of reflecting the world, is something we must work to create and tend, day after day after day.
~~ Kathleen Dean Moore ~~

Feather2

How did you shape your spirit today?
Reflect the world?
Create and tend?

Regale me.
Right here
right now,
regale me.

More about 365 Altars

gifts

Legaseecloth

the call
(in the form of a poem by jan l. richardson that has captured my heart):

Wise women also came.
The fire burned
in their wombs
long before they saw
the flaming star
in the sky.
They walked in shadows,
trusting the path
would open
under the light of the moon.

Wise women also came,
seeking no directions,
no permission
from any king.
They came
by their own authority,
their own desire,
their own longing.
They came in quiet,
spreading no rumors,
sparkling no fears
to lead
to innocents’ slaughter,
to their sister Rachel’s
inconsolable lamentations.

Wise women also came,
and they brought useful gifts:
water for labor’s washing
fire for warm illumination,
a blanket for swaddling.

Wise women also came,
at least three of them,
holding Mary in the labor,
crying out with her in the birth pangs,
breathing ancient blessings
into her ear.

Wise women also came,
and they went,
as wise women always do,
home a different way.

///

and my response:
(in my humble, jumbled, stream-of-consciousness-cause-it’s-christmas-after-all way)

to all the wise women
who stoke the fires
who don’t wait for a star
to guide the way
who walk in the shadows
knowing there
are many paths,
all Right,
all leading home

to all the wise women
who revel in the moonlight
dance in the checkout line
spill music with their words

to all the wise women
who trust their own
internal navigation system,
helping another up
when she falls,
whispering walking sticks
or knitting balms of silence
until she feels restored

to all the wise women
who ask their questions
knowing that sometimes
the only answers
are more questions
and still more questions

to all the wise women
who know
that sometimes
bandages are bindings
and other times
bindings are bandages
and that whether
bandages or bindings,
bands of cloth
can be removed and
woven into something
magnificent

to all the wise women
who come into
and with
their own authority
who sing
their own songs of
praise
and lamentations
who put on socks
of pure, unadulterated
love
every single morning
and dance
for insight
and laughter
who inhale
the goodness that surrounds them
and exhale
gladness and gratitude
who touch
with gentleness, tenderness, confidence

to the wise women
whose hearts
open like colorful
beautiful
sassy
unstoppable
flowers
night after
day after
night
after day

even though you rarely
draw attention to yourself,
i see you
thank you
love you
celebrate you
cherish you,
you and your genuine genius and gorgeous glory.

just call me elf

Gifts

whether you’re a card-carrying member of the fabled 1% or not, you don’t have to spend a lot of money for presents this holiday season. you know that, right? we can’t keep spending money we don’t have. what you may not know or may not have thought about: when you give from your deepest creative self, you not only save money, you gift your self and the lucky recipient. it’s just one of those magical inexplicables – like writing every day doesn’t deplete your word pantry, in fact, just the opposite: the more you write, the more you have to write.

allow me to introduce the personal shopper member of the committee that is me. she loves to conjure fun, one-of-a-kind, inexpensive gifts . . .

WORDS

  • write love letters. give the recipient a tour of the real estate they own in your heart. don’t hold back – this is the gift that will keep on giving. every time they read it – and they’ll read it often cause they’ll keep it forever – will be a gift.
  • my grandmother canned food in green glass ball jars. she sweated in a hot kitchen all summer so we could eat well all winter. find an old jar and fill it with pieces of paper containing words that come to mind when you think of this person. trust me: they’ll feast year-round.
  • get a t-shirt, pajamas, scarf or any other wearable and grab some fabric markers then decorate the clothing with story kindling and punch lines of favorite memories.
  • know their shoe size? buy them a pair of plain white sneakers and decorate them with colorful words and phrases of love to lighten their step.
  • fill a blank journal with favorite quotes – yours and theirs.
  • do you owe someone an apology? write it out, attach it to a blackboard eraser, and deliver it.
  • cut a snowflake from folded paper and turn it into a gift by writing “like a snowflake, you’re one of a kind” or something similar that would melt a real frosty.
  • cut out words from magazines and instead of creating a ransom letter, create a you-are-special letter.
  • create a calendar of compliments by noting compliments in a calendar.
  • get your camera out and find things containing letters of the alphabet needed to spell out words that describe the recipient. (for example, the end of a swingset resembles a capital A – that kind of thing.) (have fun with this – remember: you can rotate and crop.)
  • STORIES

  • use your computer or camera to record your favorite stories about the recipient. ask others to participate by sharing their favorite story, then compile them into one album of love.
  • scan photos of the recipient and drop the digitized version into a document containing the story about the photo. OR keep the digitized copy for yourself and glue the original into an empty journal, penning the photo particulars (who, left to right; where; what they were/are doing; and any other details you can remember) to create a special album of memories.
  • do a little research on your computer and create a year-in-review book of things that are of interest to the giftee.
  • for loved ones, commit family legends to paper (digital or otherwise). add photos and maybe even genealogical information to create a family tree album.
  • fill a jar with questions written on slip of paper – things like “tell me about your childhood pets” and “tell me about your first job” and “what stories do you remember about your parents” and “of all the things you’ve done, what are you most proud of” and “tell me about your hobbies.” around the lid to the jar, tie ribbons on which is written several dates throughout the year when you’ll get together and listen to their answers to the questions you’ll draw from the jar. (oh, and you’ll probably want to take a tape recorder on those listening dates, too.)
  • TREASURES

  • have something you plan to leave them in your will? go ahead and give it to them. they’ll get to enjoy it longer, and you won’t have to dust it. oh, and be sure to include the provenance, telling where you obtained the item, how and when you used it, maybe even how much you paid for it – things that will tell the story about the item.
  • personally, i hate to cook, but i have it on good authority that not every is like that, so gather recipes and create a cookbook. have a section of perennial favorites and a section of new recipes for those who love adventure in the kitchen.
  • keep ’em warm and stylish: embellish an inexpensive scarf or wrap with words of love and mirth using needle and thread.
  • give them a bib, a fork and a calendar with particular dates circled and tell ’em not to make plans on those nights cause those are date nights when you’re cooking for them.
  • Forgetting is Not an Option

    Flaghalf

    We did what we could.

    We did what we could.

    We did what we could.

    I heard that over and over again from the lips of each of the four Pearl Harbor survivors at Sunday’s memorial service. Now in their nineties, these men may not be able to tell you their children’s names or where they parked the car, but they can still tell you with absolute certainty, with absolute clarity where they were, what they did, and what they were thinking the morning of December 7, 1941 – 70 years ago today – when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

    ///

    “My buddy and me were trying to decide what to do about breakfast,” remembers one. “Did we want to go to the mess hall or did we want to go to the church around the corner where the pretty ladies would feed us free doughnuts and coffee? We never did decide – we never got breakfast anywhere that morning. I was a 20 year old Clerk, and when I heard that first bomb hit, I thought ‘One day somebody’s gonna’ ask me who was here and how many survived,’ so I ran down to the office, squatted down, and got the muster from the bottom file cabinet drawer. About that time my second lieutenant came in. ‘What are you doing?’ he asked me, and when I told him, he said ‘That’s a good idea.’ It was the last thing he ever said cause right then, a strayer came in through the screened window and killed him. I would’ve been killed, too if I’d’ve been standing up. I just thought to get the muster. We all did whatever we could think of to do.”

    ///

    Pete remembers trying to get his bearings, trying to decide what he should do when another soldier appeared, his left arm dangling from the shot he took to the elbow. “What should I do?” the wounded soldier asked Pete. “Get in that truck over there,” Pete told him, pointing to an abandoned truck. “By the time I got to the truck, it was full of fellas needing medical attention. It was chaos. A nurse came out and started directing traffic. I’d never driven anything but a ’37 Chevrolet, but I drove that truck that day. I was grinding those gears – never did get it in second gear. Drove all the way to the hospital in first. I just did what I could.”

    ///

    “Chester was a radio operator,” his wife tells me. “There was a drill scheduled for that morning, but it was canceled, so Chester left his post to stretch his legs and that’s when the first bomb hit. He went back to his station and radioed ‘Pearl Harbor under attack. This is not a drill. Repeat: this is NOT a drill.’ It was the only thing he could think of to do.”

    ///

    The two-star General who served as emcee for the ceremony told me about going back to Pearl Harbor for some training once he made General. While there, he happened upon an old friend, an Admiral in the Navy. Knowing his friend was the son of a man who served as Commander of one of the ships stationed at Pearl Harbor on that fateful day, the new General asked “Where’s your father now?” “Down there,” said the Admiral, pointing to the water where the ships and so many other bodies are interred.

    ///

    Mark1

    “He didn’t really want to talk about World War II,” Mark told me, “so I asked him to tell me about his scariest memory, and he told me how he was flying a mission to snap some reconnaissance photos. He looked down to turn his camera on, and when he sat back up, he was surprised to find this big silver plane flying wing-tip-to-wing-tip with his plane. ‘Where’s that guy come from?’ the American pilot was thinking. ‘Why didn’t he shoot me? Did he shoot my gunner? How in the Hell does that plane fly without any propellers?’ Questions like these whizzing through his brain, the fella looked back over at the strange plane (it was a German jet – the Germans had them, but the Americans had never heard of them), saw the German pilot salute him and then zoom off in that strange-looking plane.” Mark was so captivated by the story, he painted a picture of the two planes and presented it to the pilot. It’s now back in the museum at the Dixie Wing, the local branch of the Commemorative Air Force.

    (Note: That’s Mark in the photo above, standing in front of the painting. Hard to see on account of the glare, I know. Guess you’ll just need to visit.)

    ///

    Survivors3

    Survivors4

    My daughter travels around the country portraying Betty Grable at events like this. “You should’ve seen those Pearl Harbor survivors when you walked by,” someone told her as she took her seat before the service began. “They were all hunched over looking at the floor, but then Betty Grable walked by, and those shoulders straightened, those heads snapped up, and those eyes never left you for a moment.”

    As she greeted the survivors, she asked what she always does just before thanking them for their service: Would it be all right if I plant a Betty Grable kiss on your cheek? She’s never been turned down.

    Not once.

    ///

    “Do you have as much trouble keeping your seams straight on those stockings as we always did?” one of the wives asks my daughter.

    ///

    Vetsalutes

    We went outside where the flag was raised then lowered to half staff followed by the ringing of the Navy bell. As the survivors stood before the flag, one instinctively raised his arm to salute, but his arm wouldn’t cooperate . . . until, that is, his wife quietly slipped her hand under his elbow and offered her support for his salute.

    ///

    The stories from the two governments are not nearly so clear. There’s much finger pointing and enough questions to last eons. Theories abound. Heads are scratched.

    Zenji Abe, a Japanese Raider, was surprised to find out on the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor that the United States considered it to be a sneak attack. It was then he discovered that the Declaration of War had not been delivered to the U.S. authorities in a timely manner. No wonder it was considered a surprise attack.

    Information is withheld, stories are constructed – and I mean on both sides. When do we cross the line into propaganda, I wonder.

    But most importantly, I see once again the power of stories – and I don’t just mean the telling but the bearing witness, too. When we tell our stories, and when we bear witness to the stories of others, gaps are closed. Healing occurs. And, if we’re lucky, history doesn’t repeat itself.

    Typewriter

    hatching

    tomorrow
    or maybe the next day,
    depending,
    you’ll see
    these:

    Blackglasses

    or these:

    Pinkglasses

    or these:

    Blueglasses

    along with this:

    Robe

    and this:

    Redphone1

    as i launch
    my
    red phone stories.

    i won’t do them
    every day
    cause
    like far too many
    people,
    they’re
    high maintenance.
    but
    every now ‘n then,
    i’ll be
    sharing a
    red phone story,
    telling you
    about women
    claiming,
    proclaiming,
    and reclaiming
    their
    genius
    gorgeous
    genuine
    glory.

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