Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Blue Scarf draft preview

The Blue Scarf

Nora Bergatti wore the teal blue and gold scarf around her shoulders.  An early autumn wind off Lake Michigan picked up the silk  fabric, stroking her cheek as Mama used to do.  Seeing her husband, Hugh, depart for the airport that morning, Nora knew that being alone for a week was an opportunity to explore the unpacked art files in her office.  She removed the scarf from her shoulders and rolled it into a ball, tucking it into her satchel. As she walked up the steps to the museum, she patted one of the two marble lions on his head--a gesture of habit since she and Mama visited the exhibits every month in thirty-five of Nora’s forty years.  Even with Mama gone, the habitual gesture recalled those visits. 

But Nora was unaware that when Hugh returned, she would not be the same woman.  The blue scarf in the satchel knew this.  Since 1885, it carried all its memories between its threads of blue and gold--

My story is an old one, but not as old as the scarves made before me.  Each of them as a story, too.  But this is mine.  My makers weren’t weavers.  They were textile workers who came from farms in disarray.  The centuries old feudal system in Italy, as in most of Europe, was gone.  Peasant farmers were free, but as poor as ever.  They had land, but no tools to work the land.  Their former masters now could enslave them in debts for tools, for housing, for food.  So many of them left the hills, such as my textile workers.  They came from the Abruzzo region and entered Roma, looking for jobs in the newly built factories that were close to water and land transportation.  The trains came in the late 1880s so workers could live in the cities, work, earn some money, and return back to the farms to work their land.  

These workers didn’t bend and weave the silk threads.  The threads continued to come to Europe over the Silk Road from Asia.  The workers learned how to operate the silk through the steam-powered Jacquard mechanisms.  These machines cut textile labor by half and so costs could be reduced.  There was a new middle class emerging that wanted the finer goods that only the rich used to be able to purchase.  The new machines changed everything and transportation also became less hazardous and more efficient. 

A new style of design for patterns came from France, called Art Nouveau.  In Italy, it was called Arte Nouva or Stile Foral.  The designs were made in sinuous lines, whiplash curves, flowing lines, expressing a new freedom and release from traditional textile designs.  This design style affected the visual imagination of women who felt the flowing lines in their hands.  The sense of energy for a new life for women slowly came into the daily life of those who could afford the fabrics.

Such is the story of my first owner, a woman named Maria Fontevilla who lived in Fiesole.  Fiesole was an ancient Etruscan village, but Maria was from Roma.  She had married Raphael ten years before the blue scarf entered her life.  Then, Raphael had completed his legal studies.  Now, he was the Mayor of Fiesole and he bought me from a shop in Rome while finishing a legal case in the city.  It was the eve of his tenth anniversary to Maria.  Lately, she had been more subdued than usual.  In these ten years, the third baby was a fussy one and the other two boys were at an active age.  So sleep for his wife was a rare visitor.  Raphael saw the silk scarf and thought, with its golden threads woven like a river around its edges, Maria would be reminded of Roma and happier times in their marriage.  

So I was wrapped in parchment paper, rolled into a bundle that could fit in the carriage behind Raphael’s work papers and we went up the steep hill to Fiesole. My long life as an accessory to three women and one man’s stories had begun.  Like her great-niece Nora, Maria was unaware how my presence would change her forever.

“Here you are, my lovely.  You might have thought I forgot our anniversary, but I did not.”  Raphael offered the paper bundle to the woman sitting at the table who held a baby nursing at her breast. The baby sniffled and Maria pushed it away and wiped its milky lips with a cloth.  She looked up at Raphael with a slight smile.

“Well, you are forgiven then.  For forgetting to say as much to me before you left.  So busy you were with your life in the city.”  Maria sighed and placed the baby in a cradle next to the table.  “Now you are fed, Claudia, please be content for a few moments.”

She took the rolled bundle from her husband and untied the raffia string, slowly unwinding the parchment paper.  A hint of blue like the ocean appeared.

“What is this, Raphael?”  Maria's smile widened.

“Something new I saw today.  I liked the colors as they shone in the window.”

“Oh, my."  Maria unwrapped the scarf and the glints of gold caught in the setting sun, the blue fabric rippling like liquid in her hands.

“It is so beautiful.  So fine.  Too fine for a weary mother like me.”

“No.  It is perfect for you,  For a new mayor’s wife.  You will wear it to the next town meeting to show everyone you are a lady of this village.”  Raphael picked up the scarf and looped it gently around his wife’s long neck like a bracelet.  It fell across her full breasts and his eyes lingered.

Maria touched the silk and a current of energy from it flowed into her fingers.  Then the energy flowed into her quickening heart.  Her eyes opened up to see the sun in the window and, for the first time in months, her legs felt strong again.  “I am a lady of this village.  I am more than a milk cow, cook, cleaner, and nurse to little boys’ colds and knee scrapes,”  she murmured.

Yes, I whispered into her blood as it flowed throughout her body.  I was made of silk from China, tended in a silkworm farm by a Chinese farm girl.  She blessed the silk with her pure heart and mind and now her soul is mixed with yours.  My magic has begun.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Exploring the Gardens

Today my friend and I strolled through the Tucson Botanical Gardens and we had it almost to ourselves.  One chicken, multiple birds and butterflies accompanied us and a few lizards skirted across our path.  Enjoy these few photos.  I went a little crazy on my facebook page, too.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Blue Scarf

She wore the blue scarf around her shoulders. A light wind picked up its edges, caressing her as Reginald used to do.
Seeing him off at the metro station, she knew that being alone for a week was an opportunity to dare herself to do something differently.
She tied the scarf in a knot around her throat, hiding the scar.
When he returned, she would not be the same woman.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Bits and Pieces of Children's Writing

Bits and Pieces from the prompts in Children’s Writer’s Notebook
A.A. Milne
Inventing characters from your childhood and write a 300 word adventure
Brownie:  stuffed collie dog; Teddy: teddy bear; Oma: sock like toy; Mortimer:  Mickey Mouse toy; Lulu:  finger puppet
Location:  Reid Park, Tucson
It was a sunny day for an adventure at the park.  For three days it rained and the five friends were stuck inside the adobe house.  But the with sun reappearing, Mortimer woke and cried, “It’s play day.  Let’s go to the park!”

“Not before I brush my fur.”  Brownie stroke his golden ears with his paw.

“Let’s go somewhere to explore,” challenged Mortimer as he tightened his red vest and grabbed is black walking stick.

“Ohh.  Not some place too scary,” cooed Oma.  “And I need to eat my breakfast first.  I am a growing girl.”

“I say we make our breakfast a picnic in the park.”  Lulu hopped to the cupboard and began to pack up milk, apples and cheese.

“I’m with you, Lulu.  How can I help?”  Brownie pranced behind Lulu, wagging his tail that brushed against the door as Mortimer opened it. 

“I don’t need any help with the food, Brownie.  But you can grab a blanket for us.”  Mortimer was ahead of everyone, going out the door and into the sunshine.  

Brownie grabbed a blanket from his bed and carried it in his mouth.  He tried to bark but it came out with just as a puff of air, muffled by the blanket.  His brown eyes gleamed with excitement.  He trotted closely behind Mortimer.

Oma took her time, looking at the birds and carrying the basket of food in her arms.  When all of them arrived at the park, Brownie led the way to a shady spot under a mulberry tree and dropped the blanket on the grass.  Oma put the food in the center of the blanket and each of them ate their fill.

 As they wiped crumbs from their faces, Mortimer stood up and held his walking stick in front of him.  “Okay.  Now it’s time for us to explore the rocks by the waterfall.”

This was a challenge for Oma was did not like getting wet.  It took her a very long time to dry when she was washed. (337 words).

Roald Dahl
Naming Characters using an unusual first name with a surname that is a condiment or sauce
Gladys Worcestershire, Edith Pickle, Grover Dill, Archibald Gherkin

Pick one of the characters and compose a character sketch in a single paragraph
Gladys Worcestershire is a woman of her early 70s.  She dyes her hair jet black with a blue streak down the middle.  She wears her hair in a tight French twist.  She is bulky and short, shaped like the bulb of a turnip.  She works as a school crossing guard, wearing comfortable cargo paints in green with long sleeved yellow and white striped cotton t-shirts.  Her shoes are high top black converse sneakers with red ties.  She wears polka dot socks in red and white or blue and white.  She frowns at the traffic as she raises her stop sign for the kids who need to cross.  As they pass by, they “high five” her and smile.  While they are waiting at the curb before crossing, she spins off a tongue twister or knock knock joke.  She loves her day job.  

At home, she has two cats, Bogart and Bacall, who fight for their spots on the kitty condo or sleep under the bed while Gladys is gone.  In the evenings, they curl on her feet and she reads aloud to them from Robert Louis Stevenson stories and poems.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Heat Wave

"Ok, darlin'.  What's the plan for the day?"  My hubby was still in his pajamas.  We had turned off CNN after getting the latest analysis of T's roller coaster presidency--a ride many of us are on even though we'd rather be coasting in normalcy.  Breakfast dishes were put away and the cat was curled up inside.  At 9 a.m. the temperature was already 96 degrees.

"Well, I think we need to stay inside as much as possible.  I can do quick shopping for cat food and vitamins while you keep the car running.  We can go through a Starbucks drive-through and, depending on the heat, a short exercise work-out at the Y.  Maybe we'll get lucky and be able to park under the shade of a mesquite tree." 

I was trying to assemble my wardrobe options--considering the lightest fabric to wear with a dark t-shirt so I could skip the added layer of a camisole.  I had stopped wearing a bra except for rare occasions and when it's this hot, I would go naked if I could. 

Still, I didn't want to start off the day in negativity--CNN alerts aside.  As I wrote in both my journals today, I am grateful for my house and car, both air conditioned.  And most of the places I go have their a.c. cranked several degrees below what we do at home.  But I know that going around town today, as we do everyday, we will see men and women, sometimes with their dogs, sitting on street corners, begging for money.  Yesterday, I saw an aged woman in long sleeved blouse, long skirt, heavy white socks past her knees and in sandals, walking to a bus stop for shade. She was pushing a grocery cart (one of the rare ones that didn't lock) full of her belongings, so I doubted she was going to take the air conditioned bus for respite.

For those of us in first world situations, a heat wave is an inconvenience.  For people on the streets it can be life-threatening. 

As I turned on the computer this morning I saw that a horse racing in Del Mar yesterday died of sudden cardiac arrest, injuring the jockey who was riding him.  "I bet heat was a factor," I thought to myself as I reflected on the morning radio news that LA had several electrical blackouts yesterday due to overuse of the electrical grid during this heat wave.  Animals outside are at risk, too.  So are children left in parked cars.

What to do, what to do?  Writing is an action I can take.  And as the compassionate police chief used to say on the 1980s tv show "Hill Street Blues":  "be careful out there."

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Making Room

In the past few days, I began a new morning writing practice.  This change took place after I made room for it by clearing a bedroom desk from other knickknacks, books, pens.  Just the act of making room for something new can open up my mind and clear space for creativity.  A small step with maybe significant results.

I also continue to push myself to engage with my community, beyond my comfort zone.  Yesterday, I volunteered for our local Humane Society and walked a sweet dog, Snugglefoot.  She kept looking up at me as if to ask, "Am I being a good girl?  Do you like me?"  "Yes and Yes",  I would say to her as I patted her head and scratched her ears.

A few days before, I had a Bunko night with other ladies.  As I threw the dice, lost a few games, won a few and shouted "Bunko" four times, I observed myself.  I was ill at ease with the banter and lightness of conversation.  But, as I made myself participate in it, I heard myself being funny, even a bit silly.

Interesting experiences and I will keep up with them as I learn more about different parts of myself--making room for summer growth.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Not 750 Words

Definitely not doing 750 words every day or maybe even today.  So much of life gets in the way. 

There is the mother bird and her baby finally leaving the loosely knitted nest they made in my son's flowering lemon tree.  We watched her and her mate build it, weather the desert winds, wondered if a baby or two were beneath her wings.  Then, just a few days ago, s/he  popped up when mama had flown for food.  And not too long after, the baby bird's trial flight agitated our son's kitty, Basil.  A young one herself, this new world of windows, trees, flowers and birds are enchantment to an apartment-raised kitten. 

So the baby bird flew up and down and Basil followed its movements around the patio, her golden eyes widened in anticipation.  But the drama from the nest is gone now.  Instead, gutters are removed and painters arrive to restore our son's new home to a place that demonstrates new and first ownership pride.  For Basil, the tradesmen, who come and go, are not the kind of movement she likes, so under the bed she flees.  Only to be coaxed out by a treat or two.  Then back into the dark again, where all is safe.

I share her sentiment to a certain degree.  While I have breakfast of bananas and peanut butter on toast, sip my tea latte and close with a mixed berry nut yogurt, I read the news, particularly the comics.  I write, long hand, in my Higher Power journal, and then my daily mini collage ritual.  I ask for guidance from my HP and state my intentions to be "thriving today."  Then, I'd like to be like Basil and, if there are no birds to watch (fortunately, since I feed them daily, they often are still fluttering outside), I'd like to return to the safety of the bedroom where it's still and more shaded that the rest of the house. 

But I don't retreat.  I stretch, and shower, take a walk around the neighborhood and chat it up with neighbors and yard workers.  I think I know what's ahead in the day, but the unexpected may occur and so adaptability is necessary.  Limited political news is a regular distraction and today, I wear "red for ed" as our Arizona teachers prepare for a strike.  Walking out or walking in on issues is a choice I make every day.  To stay in the nest or to fly.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Two new Erasure poems

You may recall that I am a follower of Austin Kleon and often use his posts, tweets, and books (Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work)  for inspiration.  Specifically, he introduced me to "erasure" as a poetry form.  He suggests blacking out all the words from a newspaper article to reveal the remaining words as a poem.  My variation is to circle the words or phrases I want to use and then reconstruct them into a poem.

Here are two I wrote yesterday 4/22/18.  Sunday newspapers can be a treasure trove of images and words.

Down this Road (Az. Daily Star, Sports)

Down this road,
I don't have any worries
about what that looks like
when we show up.

The lines can
get a little blurry.
when we did
what we wanted to do--
we were good.

Ready to Embrace (Az. Republic, Lifestyle)

Ready to embrace
a seductive sense
of style
twin chandeliers
from the

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Much about Spring

Much about Spring
has already been said
by poets greater than I am.

So, I only want to ask this about Spring:
how does a mother dove
make a nest
to withstand
wind gusts
of over
per hour?

And when
it blows
why does
she risk
her life
to rebuild

I know:
she is

Sunday, April 8, 2018

More than an Obituary for Ginny Dobbs

More than an Obituary for Ginny Dobbs (based on the 4/8/18 obituary of Genevieve “Ginny Dobbs/Steed-Gideon, Arizona Daily Star)

Ginny and Tom had a dream and ran a motel by that name, Dream House.  Still located on Miracle Mile, back in the late 1940s it pulled in a steady stream of road trippers.  Maybe a few babies were made on the bed sheets Ginny washed and dried; maybe a few lovers hid behind the curtains she sewed.

When the freeway was built, the motel income faded along with the bed sheets and curtains.  So Ginny and her husband turned to other small businesses; they always ran them smart.  Tucson was a growing town and folks needed furniture and cars needed repairs.  When the repairs couldn’t keep cars running, a wrecking yard stocked with vehicles, broken concrete and spooled wires was the next venture for Ginny and Tom.

Gifted with a business mind, bouncy smile and sparkling eyes, Ginny could warm the hearts of customers and sometimes charm them with freshly baked goods.  After her Tom died, Ginny kept busy with cooking, sewing, and tending grandchildren.  Never one to be idle, she managed the family businesses and became an admissions clerk at St. Mary’s Hospital.

She lived a long life of ninety-four years.  Probably not a remarkable woman in a large sphere of life, but her face in the local paper’s obituary column pulled me in and my eyes set on the pearls in her ears, and the pearl strand around her neck.  Maybe her husband gave her that matching set for an anniversary gift.  I can see her touching them like a rosary before she put them on for church or special occasions.  They would be precious to her for decades, but now they lie in a green velvet box, in a drawer, covered, like a shroud, by one of her pressed cotton handkerchiefs.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Back story sketch for "The Bare Things" Part 2

I am slowly restarting, expanding my Alicia Frame story, thanks to encouragement from most of my beta readers.  I need to do a mind map for Part 2 since that really helped me move forward with the first part (novella) in November.  Here's what I have sketched out, so far.

NYC late winter 1926/Alicia Frame setting
Streets stuffed with men in long wool coats, bump into each other and don’t tip their hats.  Instead, shoulder to shoulder they eye each other, grumble a few words best not repeated in a lady’s company and shove until one of them backs off and moves on down the street.

A delicatessen is open 24 hours a day.  When Alicia first arrives this shocks her.  In Paris, the baker wakes early to make the baquettes, roles and pastries, but he closes shop by 5 p.m. and goes home to his family.  Here, she finds, it is a city that never sleeps and everyone who wants to get ahead, move faster than the next person, cuts hours at home, carries more than one job if necessary.  And, if a person is running a place where folks needs to grab a bit as they rush off to work or after late hours, then it is open 24 hours a day.  Thus, Alicia’s neighbor, Mr. Brumbinski, a recent immigrant in Poland, works the midnight to 7 a.m. shift at the corner deli, then works at a sleeve factory from 8 to 4, goes home for a quick meal made by Mrs. Bumbiniski, sleeps until 10 and then goes to work.  He does this five days a week and has one day off from the sleeve factory, Saturday.  Since most in the garment district are Jews, he and Mrs. Brumbinski go to the Temple and now Alicia, reclaiming her familial faith, often accompanies them to the midday service.

By that time, she has partially recovered from her long Monday-Friday days at Scribner’s that run into the early evenings.  She hopes this is going to change when, in late Summer, Philippe will bring Emily to join her.  It didn’t take Alicia long to discover that rooming with Miss XXX wasn’t going to work long.  A bit of a New York Party girl after work, her roommate liked to dine and drink and arrive back late.  This disturbed Alicia’s usual Parisienne lifestyle of early to bed early to rise—particularly when she had become a mother.  So looking for her own place which would accommodate Emily and, perhaps as she had promised Emily, a small dog, was how Alicia spent her Sundays.  After a cup of coffee and semi stale pastry that Mrs. Brumbinski would salvage from her husband’s take home on Friday, Alicia would borrow their Sunday paper and read the ads for apartments for rent.  She hadn’t found a place yet, but, in her rapid adjustment to America, she was becoming more optimistic by the week.

Hadn’t she already endured the rough and lonely ocean voyage from Normandy to New York? As one of the few women on board who was traveling without a husband or child, she had to learn how to avoid the sneers and not subtle invitations from single men of all ages and nationalities.  She learned to be in the company of the elderly matrons of various countries who were taking the last major leap of their lives by resettling to America.  Some were going to go to New York, but others had family waiting in Chicago, Boston or Philadelphia.  Alicia used this time to practice her English and she gained insight into how these women planned to adjust from their home country to this one.  When they were greeted by Lady Liberty, all of travelers on the rails—first class, second, and third class such as Alicia, cheered and cried.  A new and better life was in front of them and America promises safety, security and opportunity.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Children’s Practice 3/2018

1.      Experimenting with running-on rhyme aka Dr. Seuss
Fish, dish, whis(per), lis(ten), miss, kss risk, tsk, priss

It was dawn when I glimpsed the fish
Jump from the bowl to the dish.
I guessed he was wise about the risk
But then I heard him utter, “tsk, tsk…
I underestimated the risk of the dish,
So would you be so kind as to help me, Miss?
I don’t mean to sound like a priss,
But I need some water dipped into this dish.”
I was surprised at the request from him
To use the dish as a place to swim.
But being a gal who’s inclined to agree,
I nodded and made him a clear blue sea
Of water in his chosen dish.
Now he’s quite a happy dish-risk fish.  3/14/18

2.       Creatures and their actions aka Margaret Wise Brown

Gardenia flowers open one petal at a time.
Each a pearly white, uncurling from her green stem,
Stretching her edges in shadows
Softened by the morning sun
Whose shine shifts its angle by afternoon
When the blossom’s work is done for the day.
Gardenia flowers open one petal at a time.  3/26/18

Friday, March 9, 2018

Learning to write

from Poets & Writers "The Time is Now"  Week 10 prompt for creative nonfiction

Credit is due to so many people in my life for teaching me how to learn to write.  But first, a little blame.  My pre-first grade teacher (or maybe it was in first grade), decided it would be better for me to be a right-handed writer rather than a lefty which is how I started out.  I remember someone tying my left hand behind my back until I got the idea and practice of writing with my right hand.  So that might explain by zig-zag life as it has evolved.  In any case, I write right-handed now when I use long hand and type with both hands--so maybe all's "write/right" with my world, after all.

So that is my first memory of writing.  I next recall Miss Meyers in 3rd Grade who bopped us on the head when our cursive letters didn't look perfect.  I received quite a few taps on the noggin for poorly shaped cursive capital letter "F".  Those green paper letters for print and cursive that lined the top of the blackboard throughout elementary school are burned into my psyche and still haunt me in midnight dreams.  The traumatic memory is so strong that, when I do write long hand notes on holiday cards, I often get a response such as "I can't read your writing, Anita."  So there you go, Miss Meyers,you couldn't bop me into submission.

That is the skinny backstory on my learning how to write--actual content development soared with Mrs. Hanson at Kimball Junior High, eighth and ninth grades.  Even though I struggled to get beyond a "B" on my essays, I had already began penning poetry thanks to the oral tradition of poetry (James Whitcomb Riley and others) passed along from my mom and her mother.  My poetry writing might have been the reason Mrs. Hanson recommended me to honors English when I entered high school.

First year at Larkin H.S. was a partial bust for English class.  My first teacher was pregnant and left early.  I have no memory of her and we had quite a few substitutes after that whom I also don't remember.  But then, after the holidays, we had a substitute that stayed for the entire semester.  I don't recall writing much in class except for book reports.  The glory in that experience was she let me make reports on books that were way beyond my age range.  Somehow, I had been able to convince a librarian at the Gail Borden Public Library that I could handle the content of adult books--mostly biographies on artists such as Michelangelo and Rodin.  Their biographies were rather "racy" for me and introduced me to homosexuality and illicit passions.  I wrote about those themes (and a few details).  The nameless, but important, 10th grade substitute English teacher read the reports and didn't censor my writing at all.  She did correct my grammar and composition and so the world of writing exploded in potential along with the world of reading.

Maybe she knew what was ahead when I entered Mr. Caldwell's 11th Grade English class, followed by Mr. Fuhs' senior year class.  Both challenged our class with Faulkner and Hemingway, Joyce and Shakespeare and more.  They were equally unfaltering in their critiques of our writing and stretched our vocabulary with weekly tests.  By the end of my senior year, I was not only well prepared for college English classes, I excelled.  English Literature became my major and I immersed my reading and writing into medieval English Literature, 17th Century, a semester on Shakespeare, a semester on American writers--mostly Mark Twain.  At my public university, Northern Illinois University, I learned poetry from Lucien Stryk, a poet himself and international translator of Zen poetry.  I joined a writers group and had week night poetry sessions with him a a handful of others "invited" into his dusty living room where we ate crackers and cheese and drank sparkling wine.

The years have passed since then (1971) and, in all of them, I have continued to write and to learn to write.  As I wake each day in my 69th year, I read daily poetry, bits of nonfiction, everyday comics, and nightly fiction that lulls me to let go of reality.

I am grateful to all of my teachers and--through my past years of teaching writing to GED students, graduate students at the UA, and tutoring a family of second language elementary students--I hope I have helped others enter the wonderful world of writing.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Happiest in Tucson (from Poets & Writers  Poetry Prompt, 2.12.18)

Yesterday my friend and I
spent the day wandering through
downtown and beneath
the mountain where
over 2000 years ago,
Tucson became a living place
for humans.

They joined the coyotes,
bobcats, mountain lions,
lizards, butterflies and
birds who thrived along
the rushing waters of
the Santa Cruz River.

Corn was planted,
homes were formed out of mud,
shade trees softened the
Much later,
a mission was built,
bringing the word of God
to those already living
the Word.

Today, we saw a few
hard-working young women
and men working the fields of
Tucson's Mission Gardens,
hauling compost, digging holes
collecting brittle stalks and leaves.

With the workers then and now,
I embrace our living history
filling me with stories
of the place I call home.
And where I am the happiest.