Prairie Sunset

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is BARK

I considered this from various angles, now here’s my response:

Prairie Sunset

I may have journeyed far and wide,
viewed many sights of worth;
I still call a prairie at sunset
the prize-winning scene on earth.

A ring of fire as the sun dips low
blushing the clouds on high
while waves of mauve and coral
wash over the western sky

In the dust the bark of a coyote,
a nighthawk’s winnowing flight,
the sleepy coos of mourning doves
as twilight turns to night.

Respect + Self-Respect

The Word of the Day Prompt this morning was RESPECT.

To me this is such an inspiring, healthy, upbeat word that I want to write something about it before my day is done.

I was thinking about a fellow Canadian we have a lot of respect for: journalist and author Conrad Black. When he writes, his articles are informative and what my husband and I consider to be a fair and sensible take on his subjects.

This evening, however, I’m thinking of one particular aspect of his life: the experiences he had during the time he was an inmate in one of Uncle Sam’s jails.

A bit of background:
Conrad Black once owned a chain of newspapers in Canada, some in the US, with shares in the Telegraph group in England and a couple of newspapers in Australia. He was living and working in the States when he was arrested and according to Google, “convicted in July 2007 on three counts of mail and wire fraud and one count of obstruction of justice”
Mr Black spent 29 months in a Florida prison before being granted bail. When his case came before the Supreme Court, the Court declared the statute under which he was convicted to be unconstitutional. Charges against him were dismissed and he returned to Canada. However, the case against him is not relevant to the direction of this post.

So what does a journalist do when he’s incarcerated? He writes about it, naturally. I read several articles he wrote while he was in prison, and one in particular has stayed with me. That’s where I want to go with this post.

While he was in prison, he just didn’t sit around writing articles. He spend a fair bit of his time teaching other prisoners to read and write — and in giving an education, he got an education. In interacting with the other prisoners, he got a better picture of the workings of the US justice system. In particular, how it works for poor, illiterate men.

Needless to say, he didn’t come away with a high regard for the education system where so many underprivileged children fall through the cracks. This isn’t always the fault of the schools; sometimes there’s just no encouragement from home — no home even. But it’s sad to see that North American schools have been abandoning the basics in favor of the fluff and passing on those who really need help. Illiteracy among Canadians born and raised and schooled here is shocking.

Mr Black, after listening to his fellow inmates, concluded that if you haven’t got the smarts to defend yourself in a court of law, your chances of being convicted are definitely higher. I’ve read a few stories about poor illiterate blacks who barely understood the proceedings being falsely convicted, especially in the South. I don’t think this is so very rare.

He also wrote that if you haven’t got a basic education so you can get a job and earn a decent wage, your chances of ending up in jail are a lot higher. And re-offending. No news there.

Which comes back to my point about respect. Respect for others comes from learning about them as real people. Self-respect, the ability to stand up and face the world, to get ahead, comes from learning, too. It’s pretty hard to keep your head above water if you don’t have a solid rock to stand on. Like basic “Readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic.”

I’ve seen this. I’ve a cousin who can’t read her bank statement or a business letter, and couldn’t begin to understand this post. Medical issues are total confusion. When her purse was stolen she didn’t report it because she’s scared of dealing with the police, in case they ask her questions she can’t understand. Lack of remedial classes and a poor home combined to hinder her schooling.

I respect Mr Black for his efforts to work with these men and to give them the basics — and the self-respect — they’d need to build a life outside the prison walls. And I respect and applaud all the folks out there who have taken the time to teach, to mentor, to work with, folks who need a helping hand. They are a mighty army, working unseen.

Which brings me to my friend Margaret’s poem. I’m using it with the confidence that if my dear friend were alive, she’d give her permission. She and her husband Milton were just such people as she describes here.

Quiet Folk
by Margaret Penner Toews

Some folks there are who, quiet, go about
Unseen, unheard, unknown
sowing kernels
digging wells
building bridges
picking stones
raising altars

…planting poignant thoughts in ordinary talk about His Presence,
…dig, and leave no signature, while others draw and drink,
…building bridges over chasms, deeply cut by hate and color, creed and prejudice
…removing stumbling stones of cruelty, indifference and scorn along the road, so those who walk in darkness will not fall
…erecting altars by their hearths, in secret closets, or on busy thoroughfares.

Quietly these folks ‘deliver cities’ (Ecclesiastes 9:14-15)
but no one knows
and no one will remember…
(most certainly not they themselves)

…Except for God…and He will never be a debtor.
He takes a leisurely eternity to give rewards.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From her book, First A Fire
© 1993 by Margaret Penner Toews
Available from PrairieView Press

Books, Mystery + History

I see that Sue at JibberJabber has posted this writing prompt for today: BOOKS

Oh, yes. Ask me about books! 🙂

And this afternoon some author sent an e-mail notice that there’s going to be a SALE of MYSTERY BOOKS this weekend Here’s the scoop.

Just lately I read an article about the “rules” for writing mystery books. I wish I could remember them all, but a few were:
— The victim was someone not well liked. (Which definitely makes sense. There has to be some motive.)
— The one who solves the crime, or sleuth, must be an amateur, not a regular law officer assigned to the case. (Otherwise the story falls into the category of police procedural.)
— There may be animals, but they never get hurt. And you almost never see children in a mystery story.
It doesn’t say there should be a handsome single detective handling the case, or a grouchy middle-aged not–interested-in-silly-details type, but those seem to be the police options you find in mysteries.

Another important rule I could mention is: DO THE RESEARCH!

I know, this is one of my favorite beefs. But I just read two mysteries set in England, written by American authors. Do you know where I’m going with this?

Reading the reviews on Amazon for the one book gave hubby and me a chuckle, especially the reviewer who said, “We do not put cream in our tea and a Scotsman does not have an Irish accent!” This was from a review of the first book in the Helen Lightholder  mystery series. Setting your book in 1942 rural England means a lot of research. Please don’t skimp on this.

During the war years, a young, seemingly able-bodied man in England (who could hop over a fence easily) would never have said, “Especially with this war going on, I haven’t been able to find work.” He supposedly had a heart defect that kept him out of the army, but there was employment for all. And he’d have been questioned constantly about why he wasn’t in uniform. The writer just hasn’t gotten the atmosphere in England during those years.

I got a kick out of how the detective shows Helen her aunt’s obit, then says, “I’ll get you a copy.” And he comes back a few minutes later with the copy. Ha! These young squirts who write books nowadays! (This led Hubby and me into a discussion of mimeograph machines and Gestetner copiers. Remember those?)

Another reviewer, this time of the first book in the Lacey Doyle series: “The author’s knowledge of the world and how it works is abysmal. Her knowledge of England and the English is even worse.” I have to agree.

These writers are both good at their craft, but must have thought they could wing it re: situation. Sadly, most reviewers said they weren’t going to read the next book in the series, mainly for this reason.

One story I read, set in the late 1800s was loaded with anachronisms both in behavior and in language. In one place a male character asks our single heroine, “So what do you do for work?” (What’s the chances, in that era? Women’s employment options were very limited.) And she answers, “I’m into relationships.” In 1890? Groan!

Any genre, any era. If you don’t want one- and two-star reviews, writers, please do the research. Understand the era. Or have someone read over your manuscript who does know that history or place and/or setting.

Leadership IMO

Hello everyone.

Our Ragtag Daily Prompt is LEADERSHIP and I’ll respond by giving you a few of my impressions, with a little help from Pixabay images.

Pengin.halstead77
A good leader goes ahead, leading not so much by rhetoric as by example.
Penguin.DigitalDesigner
A good leader has a vision of where the group needs to go, and communicates that vision with clarity
Penguin.MichaelLuenen
A good leader accepts that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Somebody will always want to go the other way.
zoo-2794197_640
A good leader has the courage to head into deep water when necessary.
Penguin.Romanflavier
Good leaders may wait for clearer vision or better conditions, but they don’t mull around with no direction.

Images credits:
1 — Halstead 77
2 — DigitalDesigner
3 — Michael_Luenen
4 — bdabney
5 — RomanFavier

OCD

Lying in bed last night, I began to think of different things I really need to do. So many! Before long I was in a puddle of despair and my brain short-circuited.

Does this ever happen to you?

so many live wires
sizzling as they cross
OCD

Flash.WikkiMI
WikimediaImages from Pixabay

 

Spiralling

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is LIKE A CIRCLE IN A SPIRAL.

ksenia-k-5ClvdUR-AEU-unsplashI suppose almost every spiral has a circle at its base, like the one in this image posted by KseniaK on Unsplash. But my mind went to another circle: that vice at the bottom of the downward spiral people sometimes find themselves in. Whatever the addiction that entices, when it takes hold, it tries to suck us down.

So here’s my verse, only lightly polished, as my response to today’s prompt:

THE SPIRAL

that first circle
a few young teens giggling
sipping into somebody’s
daddy’s stash of bottles

another whirl, the parties
everybody drinks at them
the high school dances
quick sips in quiet corners
circles spinning her round

somehow, sometime
the bottle reached out
grabbed her by the throat
and wouldn’t let go
fun turned to pain
and the spiral started
pulling her down its dark path

half-sober, she dimly recalls
those coins she once had,
the people she wanted to love
yes, she grabbed for them
wanting desperately to hold on
but one by one they rolled
lost among the empties
the spiral drew her down

the husband who didn’t stay
washed away in the foam,
her children, their eyes round
as they watched their mother
stagger across the house
then downcast, ashamed
when their friends saw her too
they left as soon as they could
and her life was full of empties,
so many circles in her spiral

she sheds a few tears
there in the dark stairway
when she’s sober enough
to remember what she once had
how much those clanking circles
cost as they bottled her

she needs another drink
the blinking neon beckons
across the road she stumbles
not seeing the bright lights
round eyes bearing down
a squeal, and the world spins
the pavement so bruising
perplexingly rises to face her

sirens pierce the night
scream through her brain
colored lights flash
bouncing off the pavement
hurting her eyes – such pain!
gravelly voices rock her mind:
Ma’am? Ma’am can you hear me?
the steady circling, circling
of those flashing lights
wailing, wailing
– or is that her?