Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"Y" is for You . . .

You may never know
how a kind word
or outreached hand
may grace the day
for another.
Think of morning sun,
the fragile flowers of spring.
That brightness does not come
easily for everyone.

Spring Orchids at Manito Park (Camp 2014)
Read what others have written for the Blogging A-to-Z Challenge -- Tomorrow is the very last day, a poem inspired by the letter "Z". .

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"X" is for Xylomancy . . .

I spent today thinking 
about the letter "W", not "X".
I wanted to write about wanderlust,
how even today, no one can rattle
the suitcases,
neither my husband nor I,
without some amazing trip ensuing 
-- maybe an exit of sorts,
leaving all that is familiar behind
to leap into the new:
shaking loose the detritus of routine
to explore the unexpected.

I cannot easily explain
that romance of crossing lives,
a moment of pretend
as we settle down for a week or a month
in a town far from home.

Perhaps we'll walk in the woods,
wishing to encounter just once
that witch who left crumbs
marking the trail to her lair. 
But if we found a certain branch
from a certain tree,
we might read our futures 
in the bare, rubbed wood
and extricate ourselves
just in time.

I truly did spend most of today mulling over "W" words. So when the time arrived to write today's entry, I was stuck. I found "xylomancy" after reading through the list for X-words at The Phrontistery, an online resource for unusual words.  

Xylomancy means divination by examining wood found in one's path. If only Hansel and Gretel had found such a branch. 

Path through Redwood Trees,
California Coast trip (Camp 2013)
Read what others have written for the Blogging A-to-Z Challenge as we wind down to "Y" and "Z" in these last two days of April.

Monday, April 27, 2015

"W" is for Wintersong . . .

I have learned to celebrate winter,
for here the snow arrives 
in surprising flakes, then
clumps and heaps
for months
and months
of cold and ice. 
I say: Deliver me 
from these rutted roads
and new car dents,
the week I grazed the garage,
as the car slid right 
when I turned left.
But that choke-cherry tree
outside my window,
flaked full with April's blossoms,
by winter time is limned with snow.
Our walks take us into
a pure country, all gray and white,
and a certain knowing that 
when the snow melts,
the world will turn to light.

Walking in Manito Park 

As April draws nearly to a close, only three letters remain. See what others have written for the Blogging A-to-Z Challenge here!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

"V" is for Vanity . . .

We live on the thin crust
of the earth, distracted by weather,
the inexorable turn of seasons,
mostly oblivious to her workings,
and the magma beneath.
those tectonic plates shift,
and we run from our houses
in horror.
Aftershocks ripple
through our lives
and topple homes
and temples, where once
we played as children.
We cannot begin to imagine the loss.
Even from far away, 
we reach out to help survivors
clear the rubble away,
bury the dead,
care for the injured,
to ease the sorrow.

My husband once traveled in Pakistan and Northern India to hike in the lower foothills of Everest, a romantic and far-flung trip when he was young. Apparently, the entirety of Pakistan is in that zone between two great tectonic plates that grind against each other, one from Eurasia and one from India.

"Annapurna Range, Himalayas"
by Michael Royon (

Friday, April 24, 2015

"U" is for Uptick . . .

What would spring be
without an uptick of tulips,
azaleas, clematis, and wisteria?
Those pale, green leaves that slowly
open on slender, spreading branches of willow trees,
all harbingers of warmer days?

A writer could wish for 
a sudden increase of words to spell
out the rest of her story,
a satisfactory resolution,
no pesky villains, 
unresolved threads,
with the heroine safely home,
perhaps where she wants to be?
Or is the muse waiting
for a downtick of seasons;
when we dread
our darkest dreams?

Today, such a debate doesn't matter,
for the words spilled out just fine,
the story structure shimmers,
and I can yet enjoy this
very sweet and cherished spring.

Wisteria at Longwood Gardens (Camp 2014)
Didn't think I could catch up today . . . but I'm happy to present this little poem for the letter "U" -- which means tomorrow will be "W" and I can have Sunday off, perhaps to recover from that all-day workshop on quilting I'll be taking. Enjoy!

Now hop over to that Blogging A-to-Z Challenge to see what everyone's UP to HERE.

"T" is for Tenacity . . .

To wake,
when others sleep.
To turn my face to the sun.
To persevere.
After all, 
even an old mermaid
has her dreams
of limitless sea
and rolling surf,
and diving deep
where heartsong thrums as simply
as breathing water
as once we all did
before that world we left behind,
as a child walks forward
into each day,
not looking back.

The merry month of April will soon end, as will the Blogging A-to-Z Challenge. Read HERE to find what others have written.

"Mermaid" by George (Flickr

Thursday, April 23, 2015

"S" is for Still . . .

Sometimes being still
means not listening.
Can I hear my heart beat?
A single breath and hold:
let go
of awareness, the yoga pose
yet that balance between
discipline (the doing),
being (the self), a part of
not-being (the not-self),
and becoming
A flash of wings,
my eyelids close,
and I remember the
song of sparrows.

"Sparrow" by Micola (Flickr)

Still a little tired from the drive up from Oregon home, still one day late on that Blogging A-to-Z Challenge. Maybe I will catch up on Sunday.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"R" is for Roughing It

When the fur traders crossed the mountains,
they traveled light,
pemmican, guns, tin plate and tin cup. 
Their ponies belly-deep in snow,
they wore snowshoes when the horses gave out.
They ate their moccasins when the game hid,
made friends and found wives when they could,
traded twists of tobacco for furs, 
drank rotgut at isolated posts, 
sang ribald songs to forget the bone-cold
and the howls of wolves.

Sometimes I wonder what they thought about
as they scanned the skies for sudden storms
or the ground for tracks.
They must have missed those left behind. 
Did they marvel at sweeping vistas,
unending pine forests, or stare up at the stars?
They must have worried about the miles ahead,
signs of an early winter, an unhealed cut,
frozen fingers and toes.
They might have wintered over at a trading post,
hunkered by the fire, trading stories, gambling,
passing a bottle. But when the snow melted, 
they would lurch outside,
sniff the air in all directions,
eager to leave.

I still get the itch to hit the road in the summer, to throw the tent in the trunk and all that camping gear, to hike along a trail anywhere close to wilderness. 

Read what others have written for the Blogging A-to-Z Challenge HERE.

Mystery bird at Yellowstone (Camp)
click on photo to see in more detail 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"Q" is for Quandry . . .

Half-asleep, I wrote yesterday's poem,
the lines lost as I recover
from all-day driving north and home,
one car in a line of trucks.

My quandry for a poem today 
could be fixed between quotations, 
as Natalie Goldberg says: 
"Write what disturbs you, 
what you fear, 
what you have not yet 
been willing to speak about." 

Or my uncertainty could be a form
of querulousness, 
tired feet, tired hands, tired
body and mind. I do not know
you, dear reader, well enough yet
to reveal what Goldberg demands.

What leads writers to flog the keyboard,
cajoling meaning
from this perfect day:
chokeberries flower in full, white bloom,
while sparrows build nests,
their incessant chirping a trill of sound
I hear and cannot decode,
all a backdrop to an unresolved quandry.  
Perhaps tomorrow?

Yes, I am tired tonight, but moving back on track after traveling all yesterday. Maybe tomorrow, the letter "R" will be more receptive. 

See what others have written for that Blogging A-to-Z Challenge HERE.

Meme from The Write Practice
"10 Essential Quotes on Becoming a Writer"
by Joe Bunting

Saturday, April 18, 2015

"P" is for Perhaps . . .

Perhaps this morning I'm standing
in someone else's garden,
where later under the just flowering apple tree,
humming birds will gather, and
a stone salamander sleeps,
absent of friends.
The roses are not yet blooming,
but yellow primroses brighten the corners,
as does a line of colored tiles
gathered one by one. A serape casually draped
on a garden swing in the far corner
near pale pink rhododendrons
invites reflection.
Here and there, stone owls
and a raven stand guard
as the sky softens from gray
to pink morning, 
that moment before the world begins.
Even rain does not diminish
the light of this garden
where now the golden-crowned sparrow
forages in the grass.

Friday, April 17, 2015

"O" is for Online . . .

Do they have wifi?
We're on the road,
a different place each night,
but still connected, I think,
and protected, that upward link
to those I love. 
So busy, inbox full,
all those projects half completed,
smart phones humming,
slide fingers to discover
new options. Wait! I have just
the right answer here
. . . at my fingertips.
Were you listening?

Actually, my phone is dumb
and dumber;
we're unplugged
except for once a day.
Maybe this poem
is all that keeps me

Short poem today for that Blogging A to Z Challenge HERE, as another hotel breakfast awaits, then a little packing and a drive south to Corvallis. If it's Friday, that means just one more day before Portland. And here are two wonderful photos found on Flickr by Wendell, the first taken near Corvallis, Oregon, and the second, also by Wendell, for a friend I'll see later today who loves birds.

"A Chance of Rain" by Wendell (Flickr)

"Make Room" by Wendell (Flickr)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

N is for Not Here . . .

Not here, but there,
where yesterday resides.
I am visiting this rainy country
for a few, very few days,
not enough time
for more than half-remembered,
years-old conversations to resonate
as we drive up and back
along the 99W corridor,
dipping into concentric circles
of friends known once quite well,
the sweep of the Willamette Valley
rising to coastal mountains in the west,
Marys Peak, a gray shadow,
and unexpected sunshine ahead.
By the weekend, we’ll turn north
and home, feeling stretched,
a little unravelled, well-travelled,
yet still here and there.

"On Marys Peak" by Chris Ten Eyck (Flickr)

I've hiked on Marys Peak near Corvallis, but not this time. We're on the road again and headed to Portland and Fort Vancouver for research on the Hudson's Bay Company for that third book, and, yes, visiting friends along the way. I'm trying to keep up with that poem a day for the Blogging A-to-Z Challenge. Visit HERE to see what others have written.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

M is for Meaning . . .

This morning, you talk to me 
about the meaning 
of human existence,
a book you’re reading,
while I listen and watch
a little, nameless bird
tap, tap, tapping on our patio,
hoping to find an errant seed.

We debate the balance between
logic and intuition,
while I bake cornmeal muffins for lunch,
hot, buttery, with crumbs
that stick to our fingers.

Your hand in mine,
we walk beneath a predictable sun.
You say that everything
has some kind of rational structure,
capable of being understood,
while I lean into truth
like sparks of light,
the cherry blossoms lit from within,
pulsing maybe
with meaning.

Woodblock print of Mount Fuji and cherry blossom from 36 Views of Mount Fuji by Hiroshige.
How many times have people wandered among the cherry blossoms to talk of spring? Read what others have written for the letter "M" and April's A to Z Blogging Challenge HERE.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

L is for Let Go . . .

Morning begins with suitcases,
all is packed,
perhaps the rain would dissuade us
for an hour more
before that inevitable letting go
of everything that makes a life,
a room of books, two flowering violets,
the view overlooking pine trees
with an occasional deer,
just the right assortment of cooking pots,
a ten minute drive to those we love,
but this morning, we are leaving
this place, just a little journey,
not so far away.
One always hopes we will return
to this place, this time.

We truly are leaving this morning for a week-long journey south. Maybe my posts will be sporadic, but I hope you still celebrate Blogging from A to Z with others HERE.

Monday, April 13, 2015

K is for Kudzu . . .

Flowering Kudzu (Wikipedia)
First I noticed 
small, purple flowers
in early spring, 
rising up from the muck
on a thin stalk; then,
as spring heated up to summer,
climbing creepers
covered nearly every bush,
every tree shaded from light, 
with fat Kudzu leaves
that just never stopped growing.
Underneath this canopy,
the trees began to die,
their smell ripe with history.
Six or eight generations back,
the government paid farmers $8/hour,
a goodly sum, to sow Kudzu. 
Their hope? To stop soil erosion 
over one million acres.
Sometimes we don't know
what gifts a flower brings. 

Today's poem comes from a rambling summer trip spent driving south through Georgia. We saw a blanket of what looked like a strange kind of ground cover, growing right up from roadside ditches to cover shrubs and trees in an unending wave of green. 

Mature Kudzu, Georgia (Wikipedia)

Wikipedia really does have an interesting article on Kudzu, these hardy perennials, how the plant was introduced back in the 1870s, how invasive it is, how difficult to eradicate, how it might contribute to global warming. 

Like many, I'm pretty far removed from growing things; I scrounge my food in the market, eat bagged spinach, worry a bit about GMO's. I remember my grandfather talking about hunger in the 1930s and telling me that appearances can be deceiving.

See what others have written for the Blogging A to Z Challenge HERE.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

J is for Just

As in . . . 
Just play me some of that
rock and roll music . . .
Any old way you choose it. 
Take me back to those Saturday night
concerts, hundreds of kids standing in line,
all of us hoping to get inside,
all of us wanting just to dance 
to the beat of Chuck Berry's thumping guitar,
not quite acid, but sliding that way, 
nonstop music, one hit after another,
everybody grinning
flower children, eyes shut, swinging,
grooving, dancing, just dancing.
Were we ever so young?

Chuck Berry, 1971 (Wikipedia)

Here's Chuck Berry's concert in Toronto in 1969, 45 minutes of fine music. Enjoy!

Check in to see what other bloggers are writing for the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Thank goodness tomorrow is a day off!

Friday, April 10, 2015

I is for Island . . .

I remember the floating gardens
of Xochimilco, just south of Mexico City,
once a retreat for Aztec rulers, now 
a respite for tourists and families on 
warm summer Sunday afternoons.

We came to celebrate a wedding
and sat smiling, on a great, flowered gondola
with our daughter and new son-in-law; 
our host poled slowly along the canals,
occasionally passing boats of musicians, their 
songs and guitar music lifting above the warm waters.

We ate grilled chicken with our sticky fingers,
purchased from an old woman in a dugout canoe,
her grill balanced in the bottom of her little boat 
as she darted between the gondolas.

Now I remember those sweet days of long ago
as I play with my grandchildren and sing the songs
of Xochimilco.

Our Gondola at Xochimilco 
Tomorrow, those writers posting for the Blogging A to Z Challenge with confront the letter "J" with Sunday a day of rest. Visit HERE to see what others have written.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

H is for Hummingbird . . .

This Costa's Hummingbird surprises me
as I walk in my sister's garden,
away from deadlines and unfinished stories.
It hovers, directly in my face,
blocking my path,
and darts to rest,
so still for a moment,
its throat purple with unsung song,
that I remember with certainty
each day is numbered,
a mystery, unknown, a gift
like this hummingbird
making its uncounted rounds
from bloom to bloom,
pollen on its little, hairy legs,
perhaps sentience in its beady, little eyes,
as it stops to stare,
not seeing me at all.

Costa's Hummingbird (Wikipedia)
Read what others have written for the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Tomorrow's challenge: "I" and I wonder what I will write.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

G is for Good Morning . . .

Most days I wake up with words
ready to spill from my fingers.
Not today. Good grief! 
I'm driving over to Couer d'Alene
to meet with a group of writers,
about an hour east,
right into the sun before 
the commute begins.
I don't know these writers,
but my satchel is ready,
for there's something about mornings,
each day a new beginning,
a promise to slap over the roars
of yesteryear. I did survive a certain childhood,
night terrors notwithstanding,
I do have, as Virginia Woolf wrote,
finally, a room of my own,
an office cluttered with projects.
It is a good morning.
May it be so for you -- sweet
dreamer of dreams and maker of nests,
as you sleep late.

"Morning" by Stròlic Furlàn - Davide Gabino on Flickr 

Check out the Blogging A to Z Challenge and see what others have written on this month-long writ-a-thon. Many plan out what they will write around a theme. Mine are (surprise) morning thoughts. Tomorrow's challenge? Aha! "H".

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

F is for foraging . . .

Isn't that what writers do?
Forage for that hidden bit,
a seemingly easy turn of the wrist,
a sleight of hand
that brings a kind of certainty
about what comes next.
What do we know, after all,
about the stranger on the bus,
the bird on a wire?
Deadly dangers abound.
Even the weather is not reliable,
snow in April, fat flakes 
blot out daffodils and frail
pink cherry tree blossoms,
while south, snow packs melt
and drought eases into the land.

Arizona Spring by Jeffrey Stemshorn

Today's poem came from my sense that writers kind of pick over their reading, conversations and impressions as they write, with words floating up somewhat intuitively to build into the story that sense of 'truthiness' (a lovely word invented by Stephen Colbert). Certainly this week did bring snow, and yesterday I saw an amazing collection of before and after pictures of the California drought. 

One of the writers in my group constantly checks my use of metaphor, telling me no one talked that way in the 1840s, though many phrases have been in use since the middle ages. Now I routinely check. 

I thought 'bird on a wire' meant someone listening to a surveillance tape, maybe from that Goldie Hawn movie of the same name, but so far, I've only have found references to that opening phrase in Leonard Cohen's song ("Bird on the Wire"), or to an old practice of luring small birds by using lime on sticks or wires to snare them, a practice used again and again as metaphor by Shakespeare. Of course, the phrase could refer to those anonymous birds that line up on telephone wires at dusk.

Tomorrow we writers for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge will move on to "G".

Monday, April 06, 2015

E is for early . . .

Better early than late. 
If we were farmers up with dawn,
would we see the sun rise
with any anticipation?
Or would we lean exhausted 
into the task before us,
numb routine erasing each day?
I am a child of the city,
far from fields' tidy rows,
yet early to wake before the sun
lightens the sky,
my potted patio pansies a whimsy,
fragile as any bird's nest
snugged between a willow's branch
and April's winds.

Duck's Nest Under Willow,
St. James Park
by Renee Rosen-Wakeford (Flickr)

Join the blog hop for the Blogging A to Z Challenge or NaPoWriMo  -- both to celebrate April, National Poetry Month.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

D is for Dayflower

I've never seen a dayflower
but there's something about the name
that reminds me of spring walks in the woods,
and a glimpse now and then
of hardy survivors
who -- not sentient,
yet spread petals to the light,
Could we do less?

"C.communis after rain" by EHM02667 - Own work.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
A short poem today -- Originally, I wanted to write about decisions we make, a version of those paths not taken, but a long list of 'to do' awaits, and just in the last few days, the cherry trees (in spite of Thursday's hail storm) have blossomed with pink. The first day of spring is long past, but finally, the seasons have turned. We have an amaryllis in our living room for the first time and admire its flashy red blooms, opening like a miracle. These small flowers, these dayflowers, are miracles as well.

Visit Blogging from A to Z Challenge and NaPoWriMo, both blog hops in honor of National Poetry Month. Why not write a little something to share?

Friday, April 03, 2015

C is for Close

I do like to sleep in a tent,
the night air fresh and sometimes cold,
full of sounds not easily dismissed,
the crack of a twig,
the rustle of some small animal foraging,
once or twice, truly a bear passed nearby,
its heavy tread easily fearsome,
and in the morning, the light
brings night mysteries clear, 
the outline of paw prints,
the routine of breakfast,
the comfort of hot tea.
Once we camped near a rock wall of petroglyphs,
those ancient marks a reminder
of those who long ago slept in that place,
high in the mountains.
Once we walked along the Street of the Tentmakers
in Cairo, where teen-aged boys
sat in lotus position in tiny open-air shops
to sew intricate applique panels
for wedding tents and tourists, 
in centuries past, they sewed for caravans 
travelling east on the Silk Road.
Keep those memories close
for that day when loved ones leave us,
and we face the long night,
as we all do, alone.

For all of April, I hope to celebrate with a month of poems for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge and NaPoWriMo, both blog hops in honor of National Poetry Month. 

Poetry has always been a scribble here and there, between 'real' writing. I read somewhere that writers write to experience life twice -- once in the moment, and once in reflection. 

So, join in! Check out the links to see what others have written. Write a poem. Share a memory with someone close. 

Here we visit a street stall,
one of many lining the Street of the Tentmakers
in the heart of Old Cairo.

An open air butcher in Old Cairo. Notice the large red tent hanging behind the butcher, all applique, all hand made.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

B is for Butter

Butter me up, babe.
I've got a bee in my bonnet
banging away,
that stinging belief is
always there, 
that I can,
you know,
bleed words on a page.

Last night, my writers' group met, four women who write in different genres, knuckling drafted words to final form. Usually I take a scene from Rivers of Stone, as I slog through research and try to add depth and detail to my story. But last night, I took something different, a beginning of another story, not historical fiction, but maybe a crime/thriller, an opening scene about a emergency room nurse and a shot-up police officer.

At the end of the day, I like to read stories far different from those I write. This week, I came across a paranormal novella. The premise sparked with edgy humor. Pure entertainment. This writer (he who shall remain nameless) wrote a great blurb and the opening chapter delivered. But very shortly, the characters began to dither, the plot dissolved, and after 27,000 words or so, the story ended, unresolved and with a plug for his next story. I was sorry I had downloaded this story, though the blurb remains a masterpiece.

Why did I take something different to my writers' group? Some writers say we should work on more than one project, so that if one stalls, another picks up. Maybe I'm so deep in research and editing just now, I wanted to feel again the thrill of simply writing.

Other writers ask how can you immerse yourself in a story with full attention if you are flitting from story to story, rather like a bee gorged with nectar, legs clogged with pollen?

Alas, the writing life is never simple. It all boils down to belief. And that's my "B."

This post is part of a month of poems and commentary for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge and NaPoWriMo, both blog hops and celebrations of National Poetry Month. Join in. Write a little something. Check out what others have written. Believe in your own sweet writing.

Spring at Manito Park, Spokane

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

A is for Anecdote

A is for anecdote, maybe an event or scene,
retold over dinner to strangers,
a short, perhaps obscure retelling 
of that moment historical,
or private and personal,
amusing, revealing, 
perhaps salacious, 
I think stories begin this way:
a glimmer,
something observed, 
the smallest detail
the writer's heart

Today begins a month of poems for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Join the fun to write a little something every day. Check out what others have written or hop over to NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month). 

My own historical fiction trilogy (Standing Stones, Years of Stone, and now, Rivers of Stone in editing phase), began with an old story of mermaids off the coast of Scotland.  Somehow, perhaps like all beginnings, even a word can take us to unexpected places. 

For me, that anecdote about a half-glimpsed mermaid led me to the 1840s and the McDonnell family as they experienced the Clearances in Scotland, and then Van Dieman's Land, a dreaded penal colony in present day Tasmania, off the coast of Australia.

What made me begin to write so long ago? That's another anecdote!

Spring Lilacs in Spokane