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January Sad

You live in the blue now,
While my spirit twists in the wind
Like a tattered rag caught in the
Skeletal branches of a winter tree.

I would not live where you do now,
Even though there, the frigate birds
Wing eternal across the clear clouds.
But I do wish
That Januaries
Were easier.

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Love Last__

She looked and saw
and silently loved,
outside of confusion,
understanding only what lived in her heart
though others were dismissive.

She tried to stop,
but there is no stopping
a true feeling;
only time can do that.
But time, for her,
feels like an ancient turtle
crossing an L.A. freeway.

Never gonna happen.

She reached out,
that whole heart
carefully and cautiously
crafted into well-placed
words from the soul
which were met with silence
silence
silence
silence
silence.

And now, she nestles,
silently,
Against my shoulder,
A few teardrops being
the only words she has to say.

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At Water’s Edge

When I am old
And feeling softly lost
Among the silver strands of hair
That stroke my face like slender reeds
At water’s edge

will you take my hand and draw me
through this tender abyss
captivating raptures as we weave our way
between the littered stars?

will you loosen the twigs
that tangle in the tresses of my spirit as it
drifts across the silent sound
coyly toying with the watchful herons?

will you hold me as I
ramble in and out of spatial palaces
and ramshackle rooms
built and filled with dreams and memories?

And
Will  you let me slip sylph-like
Into a permanent moonlight
Recalling the simple color of my eyes
When I am
Finally
old?

I have 318 draft posts in the stomach of this blog.

318. That’s getting close to a post for every day of the year (just in case you couldn’t intuit that for yourself.)

But here’s the thing:

I have no idea what some of them are about.

Like most writers, my inspirations do not always strike at the most convenient times – like when I’m sitting down at a keyboard or with a journal and a pen.  So I do what all writers do. I write down whatever I can wherever I can. Because I know I won’t remember it by the time I get to the “writing place”. I can’t even remember the five-item grocery list that I’ve been reciting to myself ceaselessly for an hour – even going so far as to make up a little song as a memory aid – if I walk into King Soopers and am distracted by the shopping carts being stuck together.  Poof!  The list is gone, just like the outline of a cloud. I will, however, remember, while sitting in a meeting at work sixteen hours later, that I forgot to buy lemon juice.

This lack of total recall translates into several things:

1.   I have a dozen notebooks going at once.

2.   Even so, I don’t always have one with me. When I need one and no current notebook is handy, I find (or buy) a new one.

3.   If no notebook at all is available, I use whatever I have to write on – bills, receipts, dry cleaning tickets, my hand.

4.   I can’t throw anything away because it might have a precious nugget of creativity on it (though I do wash my hands). Kelsea is going to have to save everything so she can piece together my memoirs after I am famous and dead.

5.   I am a menace on the road, because it is very hard to write while driving.

6.   Sometimes my notes make no sense at all.

Many of my post drafts are just a title.  If it’s a brilliant enough idea to be a post and to have a title, surely the title will trigger that same waterfall of creativity about the topic.  Wouldn’t one think? Well, one would be wrong.

Take, for example, a post drafted in February 2011 with the title “George and Jennie”.

I don’t know anyone named Jennie. And I only know one George. Maybe something about Winston Churchill’s mother? I tried googling “George and Jennie” – maybe it was something an old movie stirred up, or something inspired by NPR’s StoryCorps series.  I often find that those spark the creative kindling.

The only thing I came up with was a couple named George and Jennie in Fayetteville, West Virginia, who mysteriously lost five of their children after their house caught fire back in 1945. Now, this does sound like something I would actually write about, but I know in my heart that I have never heard of this tale before, nor was it at all related to whatever my post was going to be about.

So I guess my George and Jennie post is as much as mystery as what happened to the five children sixty years ago (not to minimize the tragedy).  It will likely come back to me one day while I am petting a random dog or rock-climbing or changing cat litter. Most likely at a time when no writing resources are available.

Some draft posts are titleless and contain nothing but a few choice phrases. Opening those is like opening a present – I have no idea what I’m going to find inside. But those are the ones that, when the spirit moves me, I can whip into a literary frenzy and complete with relish (and mustard, if that’s your preference). Those drafts are easier to work with.

Many potential posts dwell in my notebooks as well, lists of them.  I often say to Kelsea, “I should write a post about that,” and she’ll say, “You should.” I treat her as my back-up brain – two days later, I’ll ask her,”What was that great idea I had for a post when we were watching Jersey Shore?” Sometimes she can remember, but sometimes she can’t.  Darn unreliable back-up brains.

The notebooks contain nearly finished pieces, but unfortunately, they’re in the notebooks.  And that’s often where they stay. Which is why Kelsea is going to have to keep everything that I have ever written on.  Half-baked (as opposed to fully cooked) posts will also dwell for eternity on neatly lined pages if they take longer than a bus ride to finish.  However, few of them – this one, for example – will, like a single-minded and determined sperm, make it to the promised land.  But only a very few.

A draft is defined as “a preliminary version of a piece of writing” or, if you ask Mr. Webster online, “an instance of drinking”.  I think for a lot of writers, there’s little distinction between the two.  Just ask Hemingway. But at the end of the day, as I contemplate my 318+ drafts, I’m certainly inspired to drink a toast to them, and to all that someday-to-be-tapped creativity.

Every writer is on a quest for the perfect pen.

It doesn’t matter if I use a keyboard for 95% of my writing.  I’m still seeking that one instrument that will add magic to my words, that will be a direct conduit to the muse.  Anyone who writes has been through this, I think.  Even as a child, I was particular.  My crayons had to have some kind of point.  I mean, we all know that AMAZING feeling when you open a brand-new box of crayons, right?  It’s like a world of perfect, pristine rainbows with endless possibilities.  (If only we could view every day that way – except it’s a little over-the-top bedazzled unicorn-y.) 

Graduating to pencils, I was still particular.  #2 Eberhard Fabers or Ticonderogas were the standard.  Remember how we always had to fill in the little circles (completely) on our standardized tests using a #2 pencil?  The computerized reader would be unable to read a #1 or #3.  I hated #3 pencils.  Far too light.  As if you weren’t committed to your words.  I loved #1 pencils – dark, firm, strong, but we could almost never find them in the stores, and when we did, well, they weren’t the requisite #2’s, so we didn’t buy them.  And I was enchanted by those pens that had about a dozen little points that you could push through from top-to-bottom – but they were expensive, and so not in the family budget.  I was truly envious of the girls in fourth grade who had them.

Pens are generally kept far away from children.  I could be the poster child for why this is the case.  At the tender age of about 3, I accessed one of my Dad’s ubiquitous Flair Pens – a red one – and wrote my numbers, 1 through 10, on the pale green living room wall right above the couch early one morning before anyone else was up.  I did my three backwards but I was so proud.  I went to wake up my Mom to show her.  She was great – she could see how thrilled I was to have achieved this accomplishment.  I vaguely remember her shock, and some very slight praise.  I do not remember being scolded or punished, though knowing my Mom, I’m sure she explained the error of my ways to me.  After that, the pens then were eternally out of reach.  I guess everyone learned a lesson that morning.  And the numbers stayed there on the wall for perhaps seven years, until the living room was repainted.

Back in the 1960s, pens were experiencing an evolution.  They were moving from the fountain pen era to the ball point pen era, with Flair pens being the latest and greatest.  Of course, now we have gel pens, rollerballs, stick pens, click pens.  And that’s where the writer’s dilemma occurs.  What is the pen for my hand, and mine alone?

I’ve found some that I like.  Unfortunately, the ones that I like the most have been displaying a tendency to leak.  While having ink stains on my fingers makes me feel more like a writer, I don’t like it.  They take forever to come off and having ink leakages in purses and backpacks is a true pain.  They’ve certainly given my backpack some character, but if I get caught in a rainstorm, I find that the ink stains get wet and leap onto my hips where my backpack rests, like a shipwreck victim straining  for dry land.

Pens seem to have a mind of their own, which means that have the ability to independently decide where they want to go – which means they mysteriously vanish.  When I was gainfully employed, I would buy nice pens for myself for work.  If they made it home, I know that Pat was the vehicle for their disappearance, even though he rarely wrote anything down. 

I was the proud owner of a Mont Blanc pen for a short while.  It was a gift, and I’d had it about a month, when my boss asked me about it, because she had lost an identical Mont Blanc pen.  She didn’t come out and say it, but she clearly thought I had stolen hers.  And sure enough, it vanished about a week later.  Ah, well.  It was a lovely pen, but a little fat for my fingers.

I am still searching for the perfect pen for me.  Since pens continue to evolve, when I find one I like, I have to buy in bulk because it will morph into something different sooner rather than later.  I have five pen pots in the house, and they get emptier and emptier daily (I was noticing this yesterday) as the pens emigrate to who-knows-where. 

And I will continue my quest, which may take me from quill pen to astronaut pen, until I find the one, the one that is so connected to me that the ink is just my own cerebral fluid flowing from the nib.

(And FYI, this last photo is one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken.)

(Note that this piece was inspired by the above image, which was yesterday’s Visual Prompt #840 from www.easystreetprompts.com.  Thanks for the inspiration!)

Crabs.  (Not the STD, so get your mind out of the gutter.)  They’ve played a role in my life for almost as long as I can remember.  Of course, the main reason is because Cancer is my birth sign.  My favorite piece of jewelry as a tween was a gold crab pendant – I believe my family secretly thought this was most appropriate, as I was a rather crabby child.

I’ve gone in and out of astrology phases for most of my life.  I’m out of one now, though if there are astrology fans out there, I highly recommend Rob Brezsny’s Free Will Astrology (http://www.freewillastrology.com/horoscopes/).  I don’t know where he gets his stuff, but he’s been amazingly accurate in his more esoteric predictions over the years for me. 

The sign of the Crab is supposedly the least clear-cut of all the signs of the Zodiac in terms of defining characteristics.  In fact, many of the personality traits displayed by Cancerians are somewhat contradictory.  We are solitary, yet sociable; down-to-earth yet psychically intuitive; tough but soft.  The description of Cancer being the sign of a homebody has always amused me, but as I contemplate the concept of home more and more in relation to my own sense of wanderlust, there may perhaps be some truth to it.  We are imaginative, cautious, creative, moody, loyal, untidy, romantic and difficult.  And sometimes clumsy.  See what I mean about varied and/or contradictory?

Moving away from the metaphysical, I have memories of numerous crab-related incidents in my life – I’ll share a few choice accounts:

On our very first trip to Topsail, our neighbors invited E-Bro and myself over for a crab boil one night, and our Father wouldn’t let me go.  He didn’t want me to have the experience of a live crab boiling to death screaming in a big pot of water.  I remember being furious.  Clearly, it still rankles.  Regardless, for many years, crab burgers were our traditional first night supper at Warren’s Soda Shop when we arrived at Topsail.

The first time I had Blue Crab was with E-Bro and wife #2 (I think) in some shack in Maryland.  It was a little old wooden place right on the water, with newspapers on the table and some big grizzled man behind the counter.  I was puzzled by the crabs, and made a real mess, but I loved them.  Absolutely loved them.  Until the middle of that night, when I discovered that they did not love me back.  That lack of love lasted through the next day, which was, most unfortunately, a travel day.  I’m not sure I’ve had blue crabs since, but I still recall the taste and experience with great fondness.

I ventured into new crab territory one night somewhere in Florida at Joe’s Stone Crab.  I had driven to the coast from Orlando, poked around for the day, and thought this sounded like a good spot.  It was.  I ate at the bar, and the stone crab claws were delicious.  Having made friends with the manager, we went off to shoot pool and have cocktails at some alligator-themed bar that could only be reached by boat.  And he was a perfect gentleman.

E-Bro introduced me to soft-shell crabs at the Crab Pot in Surf City. 

His description of them as “a giant bug in a sandwich” was rather off-putting, but that’s what older brothers do, right?  And then they make you eat the thing that sounds so disgusting. (And that’s a whole other post.)  But in this case, it was heavenly and is now on my “last meal” list, an evolving project which can be found here

Further explorations into soft-shell crab preparation followed – Shaw’s Crab House in Chicago does an excellent soft-shell saute.  I, on the other hand, do not.  I know this because I tried to prepare them myself once.  By the time I got through cleaning the buggers, there was almost nothing left, and what was left did not taste very good.  Given my history of culinary faux-pas, I expect this was my fault, but I will allow that they might not have been fresh enough, seeing as how I got them in Colorado, which as we know, is over a thousand miles from the ocean.  Interesting, as I come to think of it, that my last kitchen disaster also involved crab, only in the leg form.  Hmmm.

I have learned a very sweet fact about crabs, one which makes me hesitant to indulge my taste for soft-shells:  Before mating, the male ‘cradles’ a soft-shell female in its legs and carries her for up to several days while searching for a private spot, where he guards her during her final molt, at which time they mate.  After mating, the male resumes cradling the female for several more days until her new shell has hardened.  (Source: www.chesapeakebay.net)  Isnt’ that nice?  He doesn’t just hit and run, or roll over and snore — there’s foreplay AND cuddling.  The female, on the other hand, when in her molting state, will kill and devour any other male crab that comes along.  I know there’s a message here, but I’m not quite sure what it is.

The sand crabs at Topsail provide a constant source of amusement.  Blending in with the sand (hence the name), they are a favorite plaything of children and dogs.  Kelsea and I watched Hanky, an adorable white lab, chase one in and out of its hole for almost an hour.

Kelsea and I also witnessed some kind of bizarre mud crab rave when we were walking on a little pier in Emerald Isle last year.  We tried to capture it on film, but it doesn’t really come across.  Imagine balancing on a rickety wooden structure above one thousand black crabs, listening to their little claws click in anticipation of their attack upon your toes, and you’ll get the picture.

Caribbean crabs are much more laidback, which I guess is to be expected, given the culture.  They chill on the beach with you and watch the sunset.

There are over 6,000 different species of crabs in the world.  The smallest is the pea crab, which can be less than 1.5 mm.

The largest is the Japanese spider crab, which can reach 12 feet from leg tip to leg tip. 

One of the most unusual is the coconut crab (related to the hermit crab).  Found in the tropical islands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, they are 3-feet long, weigh up to 40 pounds, climb tress, and eat coconuts, which they break open with their incredibly strong claws.  Not what I’d necessarily want to confront on a desert island, but they are considered an endangered delicacy.

Well, I suppose you, like I, have had your fill of crabs now.  I sincerely hope that this serving of facts sits well with you.  Have a lovely day.

 

At one of my new favorite writer’s blogs, www.stranglingmymuse.wordpress.com, Muse Wrangler Sandy Ackers posted a Photo Prompt for writers.  I love the idea, and so am providing my response here.  Here’s the photo:

And here’s the words that it inspired from me:

She found it under the I-40 overpass, on its side by a concrete post that had served as a pillow a few nights before.  And she breathed a sigh of ease.  Yes, life would be easier now.  It was cold and while the trash bags had served their purpose as luggage and mattress, she could not carry them anymore, not this season.   She was tired.  Too tired.  But it was okay now.

She had a cart.

She loaded it with clothes and treasures, colors and sounds, food and her own special form of currency.  She pushed and pushed, gathered and grew, gathered and lost.  Pushed and pushed.

You would not think it possible to push as far and hard as she did.  You would think someone would stop her, question her, hold her.  But the cart gave her wings, and the wings made her fly, and flight made her invisible to the naked eye.  So she pushed with her cart and her wings and finally, finally, she pushed her way out of the cold and out of the tired.

Into the warm.  The cart did not move as easily through the sand.  The wheels sunk and pulled and slowed.  She emptied the cart, treasure by treasure, load by load, until it was empty, but now, even empty, it was so very heavy.  As if her wings had folded. 

She parked the cart for the last time.  She stepped out of the only clothes she had left.  She breathed for the first time in a long, long time.  She watched the water wash gently around the ruins before her eyes.

She walked into the endless cool of the sea.

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