Conversing About…

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today was CONVERSATION
and it’s been awhile since I’ve had a conversations with you all. Though I guess a blog is more of a monologue. 😉

For the past month the general buzz of conversation here was about the lovely fall we’re having and how long the warm weather has lasted. Or how dry it’s been. Monday morning we woke up to an October wind and night-time temps have been dropping to -5 or -7 C. The water basins I set out had about an inch of ice on top this morning; I dumped them out, and those circles of ice have lain on the ground all day without melting. I refilled them again today but this task will soon be over.

The robins were still here last Friday morning, but must have gotten word that it was time to go. I didn’t see even one Saturday. Good timing on their part. We heard today there was snow coming in from a Colorado low-pressure system, but it seems the precipitation will mostly fall east of us. As I write this a light rain is falling and the ground is actually wet. Every little bit helps to settle the dusty haze we’ve been living with for awhile. We’re supposed to have warmer days again for the weekend, though.

There was a wedding in our congregation last weekend when Pastor Warren’s daughter married a young man from Alberta. A lot of families in the congregation were busy making food and/or hosting visiting guests, which is what we do when there’s an important event to put on. Everyone chips in.

A couple of weeks back an acquaintance called to tell me she had some puzzles for me. The seniors in her building do them, then pass them on–and I take some of ours for them. A profitable exchange. Last Friday we did some shopping in the city and I stopped by her apartment building to pick them up. She had bags and boxes full of puzzles for me–82 puzzles in all, but three were packs with four puzzles in each; one box was a pack of ten. So about 100 puzzles in all! Far more than our seniors at the Villa can put together this winter. I’m looking for homes for the excess now.

Since I’ve been painting I haven’t done any puzzles. One hobby that takes hours is maybe enough? But I’m not painting much lately, either. seem to be in a slump. The evenings are so soon so dark! I’m having a hard time switching my mind to winter mode and working after dark has no appeal. Can’t go to bed at 8 pm, so I mostly read for a couple of hours.

Can I plead that we creative types — writers, poets, artists, musicians. etc — are moody types? Last week I read an article about songwriter Leonard Cohen, including a conversation he had with writer Mikal Gilmore.

“Depression has often been the general background of my daily life,” Cohen told me. “My feeling is that whatever I did was in spite of that, not because of it. It wasn’t the depression that was the engine of my work. . . . That was just the sea I swam in.”

The brokenness was always there, but Leonard Cohen never submitted to it, Gilmore writes in his article, Leonard Cohen: Remembering the Life and Legacy of the Poet of Brokenness.

I found that thought encouraging. No matter how blue a person may feel at times, we needn’t succumb to it. We need to let a greater purpose motor us through, in spite of the choppy waters.

Blissful Retreat

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was BLISS. And Frank Prem writes about wanting to attend their annual Rainforest Writing Retreat. What a blissful thought!

Actually the thought of any retreat where you can kick back and relax with friends/fellow writers sounds great, especially when their official website invites you to “Escape reality with your fellow writers in Australia’s lush mountain rainforest at O’Reilly’s in Lamington National Park!”

Yes, BLISS! Just a continent and a small fortune away. Sigh. Frank laments that he can’t go either now, because of new COVID restrictions in their area.

RETREATS: An Absence of Real-World Temptations

Twenty-five years ago I knew a lady in Montreal who went on several retreats. Not the blissful kind, though. Over time she paid out what amounted to a small fortune to spend time at a holistic health retreat in the country, where she did nothing but NOT EAT. For $70 a day she was given a tiny room with a bed, a dresser and not much space to move, where she spend several weeks at a time just resting, supposedly cleansing her body of toxins, reading, meditating, praying. She could walk around, but there was no encouragement to exercise; folks were there to purify their bodies.

She felt this effort brought her closer to God, but she also had practical motives: lose weight and quit smoking. Someday I’ll write more about her episodes, but suffice it to say, the plan didn’t work in the long run. Living only on water and juices, of course she lost weight. Back in the real world food and nicotine tempted her as always. Coming home after a retreat one time, she ordered an extra-large pizza — and ate the whole thing. Then her body was suddenly overloaded and she suffered. In all that enforced deprivation, she’d let self-discipline slip away.

So I shall forgo rainforest retreats until my ship comes in. Even being in a gorgeous, low-stress setting, surrounded by all those good vibes, won’t guarantee that a person would spend the time in her seat writing every day once she’s home again. The enthusiasm and inspiration would be a boost any writer would enjoy and you’d come away with fresh inspiration. However, it still takes self-discipline to keep pounding the keyboard when those temptations to skip off and play come beckoning. 🙂

Pixabay image

Saying Adieu to a Prince

My husband, after reading the news online this morning, informed me that Prince Philip has passed away. I can’t let this special and sad occasion go without offering comment and condolences to the people of Great Britain on the loss of a great statesman, a talented diplomat, and a truly regal gentleman. Plus a loyal, discreet husband and beloved father.

The Queen has referred to him as “my constant strength.” When I think of all the ups and downs the Royal family has been through in the years I’ve been old enough to know much, she has definitely needed such a pillar to lean on. Internationally he seems to have always been quiet, sturdy, tactful, an example of the “old school.” A Royal carrying out his duties to the best of his ability without spilling his feelings and complaints all over the media.

We bid you a fond adieu, sir.

Click here to read the CNBC news release.

Old Man Green

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is WHAT THE EYES DON’T SEE

As I considered a response, three different illustrations came to mind:

–Jesus describes the work of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter who would come from the Father and guide the disciples after He was gone. The Spirit is like the wind, He told them: you hear the sound, and see the effects of wind, but never SEE the wind. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is a gentle force or voice working to urge, guide, and reprove people. You will see the effects of his work, the changes in people’s lives, but the Holy Spirit itself is never visible.

–I also thought of a story I was working on a few days ago, a tale of political “sleight of hand.” How to manipulate evidence so as to make a dastardly deed look like the other guy’s fault. The Boston Tea Party, for example. Maybe I’ll finish it and post it later today.

And then I thought of some of the people Edgar Guest describes, folks who demonstrate the real values of life, like Old Man Green and old Blake here.

THE HOMELY MAN

 Looks as though a cyclone hit him — 
 can’t buy clothes that seem to fit him
 and his cheeks are rough like leather,
 made for standin’ any weather.
 Outwards he was fashioned plainly
 loose of joint and blamed ungainly,
 but I’d give a lot of I’d
 been built half as fine inside.
 
Best thing I can tell you of him
 is the way the children love him.
 Now and then I get to thinkin’
 that he’s much like old Abe Lincoln.
 Homely like a gargoyle graven —
 worse than that when he’s unshaven;
 but I’d take his ugly phiz
 just to have a heart like his.

 I ain’t over-sentimental,
 but old Blake is so blamed gentle
 and so thoughtful-like of others;
 he reminds us of our mothers.
 Rough roads he is always smoothin’
 and his way is, oh, so soothin’,
 that he takes away the sting
 when your heart is sorrowing.

 Children gather round about him
 like they can’t get on without him.
 And the old depend upon him 
 pilin’ on their burdens on him,
 like as though the thing that grieves ‘em
 has been lifted when he leaves ‘em.
 Homely? That can’t be denied —
 but he’s glorious inside.

 From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
 ©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

Book: The Girl With the Silver Star

The Girl with the Silver Star
by Rachel Zolotov

This book was just launched Nov 17th and I got to review an advanced reader copy (ARC). I found this story intriguing, at times suspenseful, at times heartbreaking! It’s basically the memoir of Raisa, a Russian Jewish mother, and her two daughters, going through the terrors and heartbreak of World War II. I enjoyed the various joyful “before the war” scenes and customs sandwiched between her day-to-day events as a refugee.

The story starts as Abraham and Raisa and their two daughters survive the initial bombing of Minsk. They attempt to escape by train from the approaching German army – along with thousands of others. As they wait hopefully for space on the next train, the Red Army shows up and conscripts Abraham. His presence in the story after this is mainly through letters he wrote to his family while serving in the army. But his love for “his girls” casts a warm glow through the whole story.

Raisa and her daughters were able to join her parents and sisters in another city and the group made their way, along other refugees, to a safer place. The book tells of the treacherous journey they undertook, crammed like sardines in freight cars, with trains being bombed and heartless thieves, as they passed through cities overflowing with refugees, finally finding a temporary home at Kokand, in Uzbekistan.

As I began to read, I soon realized that this story isn’t being related in contemporary English. Rather, in the writer’s choice of words and syntax, I “heard” the Eastern European accent Raisa would have used to tell her story. It took me a bit to set aside my editor’s pen, but then just I enjoyed listening to her “voice” as she shared her life in day-by-day scenes and memories of a better day – always holding on to the hope that there will be better days again.

Five silver stars. 🙂

Poetic Reblogs

Grey doves flutter
onto rain-soaked sidewalk
to find the man who sits,
rain or shine, on a bench
all alone but for his
pocketful of seeds.
Friends never forget.

One time as we walked through a park in the city we observed a man sitting on a bench. At first it looked like a scene from “The Birds” and he was being attacked by a dozen pigeons. But we could see as we got closer he was feeding them from his pockets.
His appearance was rather seedy as well; one could easily take him for a social outcast. I had to wonder if maybe the birds were his best friends. Seems they found no fault in him.