Monday, December 29, 2008

Sporadic internet . . .

Just a note to say that today we turn off internet in our Vancouver apartment and so I don't know exactly when I'll be able to read all the wonderful posts from writers on Sunday Scribblings or update this blog . . . as we land in Brazil on January 1.

If you want to follow along our travels through South America for the next six months, jump over to Beth on the Road. For now, be assured the writing continues. I wish all who stop by a New Year filled with beauty, creativity, and harmony. Be well and be at peace.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

I believe . . .

For every moment spent doubting, I believe in love. As Rabbi ben Ezra says, "Grow old along with me, for the best in life is yet to be . . . " That phrase has followed me throughout my life, at first a hope, then a promise, now after nearly 35 years of marriage, a commitment. I don't know how many years we will have left together, but that love that once seemed so unattainable, so out of reach, so beyond my ability to connect truly with another person, now is my center, the beginning and the end.

I'd like to believe the best of others, except those who drive like crazy people (anyone who comes too close to the car I'm driving).

I believe each person I meet has a past I may not know, but that I respect, a present I am a part of, and a future full of potential, regardless of age, gender, race, orientation, or personal beliefs.

And for underlying beliefs, the belief system I'm most comfortable with comes from the existentialists (like Sartre) who confronted the tragedies of World War II. These ideas still seem valid to me, post Iraq. Even if God does not exist, say the existentialists, we exist. We have a choice. In fact, we are doomed to choose those acts that resonate within a moral code, that respect human life -- and that respect human effort and creativity. I hope to live in ways that follow these beliefs.

This week, the Sunday Scribblings post asked us to write about what we believe. Read what others have written in a remarkable online community by going to Sunday Scribblings.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

#142 Late . . .

The rabbit knows.
Down the hole he falls,
head first. He’s late, he’s late.
Alice follows through the looking glass,
to some wild tea party
under the trees of summer.
But I’m late. It’s snowing steadily now.
The leaves are long gone.
The tea party's forgotten.
I could run madly
like the rabbit, but
snow covers the way.
Solstice promises aside,
winter lasts a long, long time.

Today the Weather Channel warns of blizzards along the Columbia Gorge through Sunday. This snow is not exactly "late" but somehow echoes in this week's Sunday Scribblings.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

#5 Red Tide

They swim together.
The fish around her,
their eyes open, her eyes closed,
trust the pull of the tide.
Fish of every color,
yellow, green and red,
follow this tide up river to the place
of beginnings,
marea creciente, rising tide.

Fish eyes know the sea and the river,
ebb and flow, seeing and not seeing,
from marea viva, spring tide,
to marea muerte, neap tide,
so many days, so many nights
of swimming into smaller and smaller
channels, still trusting the way.
Not even a siren in the sea
counts time.

NOTE: This Monday's ReadWritePoem features this beautiful drawing called "marea roja" by ladyorlando. I hadn't visited this site for a while and was surprised and then not surprised by yet another sirena.

Monday, December 15, 2008

#141 Winter Garden . . .

This winter garden
rests neatly on my palm.
Black slate covers the roof
of a gazebo, winter chrysanthemums
bloom frosted red and yellow,
Fresh snow edges bare trees,
perfectly miniature.
A tiny gravel path winds
past a clear pool just frozen.
Golden carp float
fast asleep,
all carefully balanced,
worlds within worlds.

This week's prompt from Sunday Scribblings just came to mind, the idea of a garden floating in my hand, silly, but it came to me instantly!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Rajah Quilt . . .

This morning's research introduced me to a treasure -- the Rajah Quilt, hand sewn by women prisoners as they were transported by sailing ship, the Rajah, from the Pentonville Prison in England, to Hobart, Australia on a 5-month journey in 1841. The quilt, lost for decades and recovered just 20 years ago, is shown publicly just once a year at the National Gallery of Australia.

I can imagine these 180 women aboard the Rajah, a sailing cargo ship. For the next five months, they endured crowded conditions, were buffeted by storms, and yet they created this quilt. Each had been given a personal bag filled with sewing materials and two pounds of cut fabric scraps, granted by the Quaker group, the British Ladies Society for the Reformation of Female Prisoners, so the women would find "industrious work" during the voyage. They sailed into the unknown, from one prison to another.

The quilt was presented to Lady Jane Franklin, wife of the governor of Tasmania (Australia), John Franklin, the famed Artic explorer, later lost in his quest to find the Northwest Passage (from Greenland).

I'm seeing a swirl of links to my novel-in-progress set in the Orkneys, Scotland, in the 1840s. Captain Ferguson of the Rajah took shelter from a storm in Stromness. He later married Kezia Heyter, the young woman sent by Elizabeth Fry to accompany the female prisoners. Some articles say Heyter was a matron; some say she was simply a passenger. I've thought of Elizabeth Fry as well, for she was a fearsome reformer, though she died in 1845. Yet her relationship to Kezia as mentor is an interesting one.

I'm still struggling to understand marriages in the upper class; no better model could be had than that of Lady Jane Franklin to John Franklin, both explorers, both independent. She wrote often to Elizabeth Fry, yet there is tension among historians as to her actual role in helping the female prisoners. But the good materials are all in the collections of the National Library of Australia. No time to order interlibrary loan. Sigh. So now, enough research! Back to the writing.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

140 Tradition . . .

This week's Sunday Scribblings' prompt asks us to write about tradition.

When I was 15, my grandmother sewed a quilt for each grandchild, hand piecing the tops despite her arthritic hands. Mine was vividly colored, Grandmother’s Flower Garden. I loved that quilt.

I have read of quilts made to mark the way along the Underground Railway, but this may be a combination of memory and myth. Log Cabin, Bear’s Paw, Ocean Waves, to me, these names spoke of our history. I could imagine women quilting in cabins across the plains and in the Pacific Northwest; some quilts evoke the home country left behind (Irish Chain, Dresden Plate), or mark the poignant passing of one generation to the next (Wedding Ring, Grandmother’s Flower Garden), or inspired by the Bible (Jacob’s Ladder, Rose of Sharon).

Everywhere we travel, I look for quilts. They speak to me of similar dreams and love of color, history, and family. In Egypt, elaborate quilts are still made in an open air market that once were traded along the Silk Route. African warriors wore Fulani stars quilted into their cloth armor for protection. From Japan, we see quilt patterns with dragonflies, fans, lanterns, kimonos, and Torii gates. From Alaska, quilt designs highlight the wilderness with bears, eagles, mountains, trout and the forest. And in museums I see quilting and appliqué that women have created for thousands of years to embellish their clothing, blankets, and wall hangings.


I’ve often been asked why I quilt.
Sometimes my hands hurt
from cutting fabric
as the scissors slice through bright colors.
Why would any one dedicate
so many months to make something
that can be so easily bought?

I first began to quilt
in memory of my grandmother;
her stitches held together my family in ways
I couldn’t foresee. And when I left home,
I took her quilt with me.

Now I appliqué the edges,
turn the fabric again and again
into a pattern, inventing as I go,
the curved edges turning
into flowers light and vivid.

I think about the person I love as I stitch,
the person who will one day lie beneath this cover,
sometimes dreaming, sometimes weeping,
perhaps comforted by this quilt
that I have made.

When I am no longer here,
for that day comes,
perhaps who made the quilt
is not so important.
This quilt may comfort a child or two at nap time
or be put on the back seat of a car for the dogs.
My hands are content as I remember
my grandmother.

I’m just finishing the last bit of binding on this flower quilt for my cousin, adapted from patterns in Joyce M. Schlotzhauer, The Curved Two Patch System. You can click on the image to see the quilt more clearly.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Proud Bookworm . . .

I stopped by Anthony North's blog to read this week's Sunday Scribblings to find this Proud Bookworm Award and challenge:

THE CHALLENGE: Pass this on to five other bloggers, and tell them to open the nearest book to page 46. Write out the fifth sentence on that page, and also the next two to five sentences. The closest book, not the coolest, or the one you think will sound the best. THE CLOSEST.

I looked longingly over at my nearby bookcase and crate of books, but there on the top of my printer, the closest book just in from lay. I opened Orson Scott Card's Characters and Viewpoint to page 46 to find only these two concluding sentences:

“But the stories that astonish us, the characters that live forever in our memories – those are the result of rich imagination, perceptive observations, rigorous interrogation, and careful decision-making.

When it comes to storytelling, invention is the mother of astonishment delight and truth.”

Ah, that was reward in itself. I hereby invite you to take on this challenge as well as these kind visitors (if you like): Granny Smith, Anno, Paisley, Rambler, and Sunshine.
Your prize? This retro graphic with thanks!

Monday, December 01, 2008

#139 A Winter Tale

This week's Sunday Scribblings asks us to write a winter tale. Here is a beginning . . .

Once upon a time and very far away, near a scattering of islands in the southernmost sea, lived a pod of young mermaids. They sang songs, played surfing games in the sea, and chased fish to eat. Each day was endless. At night, they floated to sleep under the light of the moon.

As each mermaid became a certain age, she consulted the Book of Mermaids about her quest. One by one, the mermaids disappeared until only two were left, Dariella and Marel, the youngest mermaid. Marel wanted to leave their island home together, but Dariella insisted on going first. “This is the way of our people,” she said. “I must go on my quest alone.”

The next morning, before the sun came up, Dariella swam north, leaving Marel behind. “If I do not return, you know what to do.”

Day after day passed. Marel waited, thinking perhaps today would be the day that Dariella would return, flashing through the surf. Each morning, Marel searched the waves, looking for her sister. The palm trees and the sandy beaches were unchanged. Dariella did not return.

Marel found the Book of Mermaids hidden in a cave on the north edge of the island. She opened its silver leaves edged with seaweed, and learned she was to swim out into the deep sea, survive a storm, and find her destiny. She closed the book and hid it under the rocks.

On the last morning, Marel swam in ever larger circles around the island, hoping to find some hint in the deep green sea of what direction she was to travel. Suddenly, a storm blew up, and she could no longer see the island for the mountains of waves that thundered out of the north.

Marel was tossed up on the white breakers and down into the deepest troughs. She flailed against the dark waters, and even though she was a mermaid, she feared she would drown. As suddenly as the waves came out of the north, so they returned, carrying Marel with them in a torrent of black waves. With each moment, Marel became colder and colder until she was as cold as the ice that surrounded her.

She swam with the waves, sometimes floating, until she came to a curious island far to the north that was made of ice, where a majestic creature sat on a throne of silver, four large polar bears protecting the woman who sat there. A wave pushed her onto the island.

“Ah,” said the creature, “the smallest and youngest mermaid. I see the Book of Mermaids has called you here. You have come to join them, the very last of your kind.” She waved her hand, and Marel could see all of her sisters floating below her, frozen blue in the ice. One of the polar bears looked at her with great black eyes and growled.

“What would you wish me to do, oh majestic one, to meet my quest before I remain here?” For Marel knew that no one, not even the Queen of the North, could refuse her a quest.

The queen sat still and thought long. She roused herself from time to time to pet one of her polar bears, causing a shimmer of ice to fly out from her long dark cloak. Finally she said, “You must bring me proof you have caused a sailing ship to founder. If you do this, you may remain free.”

“What about my sisters?”

The queen of ice lifted her head and laughed, a sharp sound that cut the air like glass. “Go. I will think on your request and give my answer when you return. Mayhap you will find a pretty for my bears.” She laughed again.

Marel slipped into the icy water and began her long swim straight to the southern coast, where great craggy mountains rose from the ocean. Perhaps she would find a sailing ship there. And if she did not, she would see her sisters’ blue faces floating forever in her dreams.

. . . to be continued