"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Mesclun Mix and Pterodactyls

"The Organic Writer" has been woefully neglected.

With spring, garden planning, seeding, and prepping always takes precedence over blogging, but before I knew it, near three months had elapsed without paying a visit.

Oh! The frozen lake! Shudder. Time to move those pictures down the page. Today a picture of our pond in spring:

From end to end, a good place to cool off in the heat of summer after bailing hay or weeding rows of beets and chard and garlic....

It isn't all idyllic around here. I've been dodging pterodactyls, planting onions, chasing chickens, and weeding the rhubarb and the asparagus, the first tips of which are emerging. Spring has been slow arriving but the tulips are opening and grass will soon need to be cut. And it won't be long before we'll be jumping off that dock.

Yesterday, as I watered our seedlings and salad mix inside the greenhouse a large winged shadow suddenly flapped around the outside of the doomed roof, up and over, flap, flap, across and over, trying to find a way in. From inside it looked huge, like a pterodactyl brushing against the plastic, looking for entry. The plastic amplifies everything. If it is sprinkling outside, it sounds like a steady rain inside. If it’s a steady rain outside, it sounds like a downpour inside. I darted outside to see what the shadow was, but only a common crow flew off towards the chicken coop, and I went back inside. Crows can’t cart off a chicken like a hawk will. 

Back to the mesclun mix....

Doesn't it look yummy? Spicy and ass-kicking! Now for the picking. The farmers' market season opens Saturday and it seems the only writing I have time for then is the weekly CSA newsletter. But I hope to post more updates here about things of interest, and I think everyone has an interest in food and how it's grown on an organic farm. 

Oh, and a swim in the pond and a writing session on the dock.

Let's not be strangers!

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Great Lakes Review

There is a breakwater on Lake Huron not too far from us that protects the harbor and marina. I walked out on it as far as I dared, then wrote about what and who I saw. The Great Lakes Review accepted my essay for publication and this morning it went live!

Lake Huron is beautiful and inviting, regardless of the season.

The narrative map series they are running is an awesome project, and I wanted to share. They're looking for more literary sketches to fill in their map.

Good luck with what you're writing and painting and doing this week!

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Thousand Lashes

As reported today in Poets and Writers, PEN is holding weekly vigils outside the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in London in support of Raif Badawi, an activist and blogger who was convicted last May for insulting Islam. Badawi was sentenced to ten years in prison and one thousand lashes, the whipping was begun last Friday. He will receive 50 lashes each Friday following morning prayers for 20 weeks. (They say their prayers first.) The extended punishment is intended to instill fear in the population and cause severe long-term damage to Badawi, probably death.

Really. A thousand lashes?

Another shot over the bow warning writers everywhere to not insult Islam. Never insult Islam or write anything that can in the slightest way be construed as criticism if you value your head and your back. Don't insult Islam if you value your freedom and the writing life. Don't insult Islam or....

delete delete delete 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

My Three Friends

It takes a lot to know
what’s right
to let others in
when solitude fits this shoe.
It takes a lot
when night looms
as a stopped clock
not to be afraid.
When the quiet overtakes
me, myself and I,
it takes a lot to face the facts
to know what’s right
to ask for help,
to pave the way and be brave
to be in your bedtime prayers.
I don’t want to be brave
I don’t want to be there.

Linked to the poetry garden and the Tuesday Platform. I've never been good at reading on stage, knees get wobbly and the podium shakes. It's easier here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

One More Flash For The G-Man


It's been a while
without his smile.

Fridays have never been the same
though it's been a while

without the G-Man in my
blogroll. It's been a while.

I never got to boast a Yahtzee
never had that cup-a-Joe.

His graciousness I sorely miss
though it's been a while.

It's been a while
without his smile.

When Galen Hayes retired from active blogging, he passed the Flash 55 mantle to the Imaginary Garden With Real Toads. This prompt was a final tribute to him. He died suddenly last month. They will be offering the meme on the first weekend of every month in his memory. Thank you, poets of the garden, for giving me a forum to say goodbye.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Burning out the Black

The boy trudges along the road
with a load of sticks on his back.
Cook fires burn the black out of the tropic night
and viewed from the top of a hill by a cross
(erected after the massacre
  inspired by the School of the Americas)
they dot the landscape like lights over L.A.
but the air smells like burning shit.

Down an alley in the city
through a fence he once glimpsed
a rope slung around a tree and tied post to post
from which clothes were hung to dry
and wood did not burn.

Further up the street were gated communities
and guards with guns in all the banks
and a pool behind an iron fence.
Drawn to the water, he peered through the filigree
at the diving board and a waiter with a towel
until they shooed him away.

Clothes drape rocks around the cook fire
and hang off every available surface.
He dumps his load beside the fire
and stirs the coals with a stick.

This post is based on the prompt at Magpie Tales and dedicated to the people of El Salvador and Guatemala.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What Would You Do With A Day Of Solitude?

Alone for the day. They ask, What are you going to do in that quiet house, all alone? What will you do with ALL that time? 

Shall I waste it? Daydream and piddle it away?  Drink, dance, light candles and incense, play music and write? Write and write and write? Time well wasted. A beautiful wasted afternoon. 

But dusk gathers, and I’m a chicken farmer as well as a writer. Eggs are gathered in baskets and await their sorting and boxing, but now I must go outside into the bitter cold one last time to shut the hens in for the night.

In the light of the quarter moon, the greenhouse glistens like a snow globe and each frosted blade of grass across the expanse of lawn is an ice crystal twinkling like fairy dust in the headlights of my pickup. I’m a chicken farmer and winter has arrived at last. The ground is frozen so my boots won’t sink into the mire that surrounded the chicken coops from the rain and slush preceding Christmas. There was no hope of it drying under the gunmetal sky with the low light of the winter solstice. No hope of a terra firma without the air temperature dipping into the twenties and staying there. Staying there.

I’m a chicken farmer and with dusk the chickens are back inside and roosting, and I must shut the coops. Roosting, they are vulnerable to any creature that might chose to invade the coop under cover of night: the coons and the skunks, the mink, fox and ground hogs, all hungry for a tasty chicken on a cold winter’s night, a meal worth the risk of a foray into populated areas. So I must cross the poultry fence in the light of the headlights I aimed to light my way. I traipse across the frozen blades of fairy grass that crunch underfoot like tiny bones to secure the coop, shut out the varmints and protect the sleeping chickens that turn comatose with the setting of the sun. Lively creatures by day, they turn silent and immobile by night, becoming even more defenseless than they naturally are. 

The stars that populate the sky and the moon at half-mast help to light my way and I reach the open door without tripping over the poultry fence or the feeders or the big stick one must carry by day to ward off the rooster with his spurs. The hens are lined up on their roosts like sparrows on a high wire. The white rooster is on the top rung surrounded by his adoring flock. He lifts his head and gives me a baleful look but doesn't budge from his perch. I slam the door shut and wedge a board against it for added protection against the crafty coon with crafty hands that can turn handles and unlatch fences. Sleep settles over the coop buttoned up for the night, and all are safe. I’m no longer a chicken farmer. I’m a writer.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cursive Writing vs. Alzheimers

My father has made an odd request of his children this Christmas. He wants a handwritten letter from each of us telling  him what we've been doing. That's all he wants. People used to write letters, especially at Christmas and I think he misses it. My parents don't have a computer so it must seem like nobody is communicating anymore. The art of letter writing is fading from our curriculum. We don't have the mastery of language and penmanship of our ancestors. We think of our great grandparents as being unschooled but they could write circles around us and I wouldn't want to take any of them on in a debate.

There is a current article in The Guardian about the cognitive benefits of cursive writing. Many handwriting advocates and neuroscientists think that penmanship is still mightier than the keyboard, that mastering penmanship has certain cognitive benefits. This makes sense to me. Every letter on the keyboard requires the same action: peck peck peck, while each letter of the alphabet requires a different stroke, engaging our brains in deep thought.  It takes us several years to master this precise motor skill. Cursive writing might even stave off Alzheimer's, that dreaded disease that is predicted to affect 50% of the population by 2050.

The keyboard can't match the emotion of handwriting. As stated in this article, "Each persons' hand is different, the gesture is charged with emotion, lending it a special charm." Maybe this is why those little icons that show emotion were invented, to make up for the soulless keyboard.

So, as I sit down to write a letter to my dad, (even found a pad of unused stationery in a desk drawer) I thought I'd throw out a challenge to everyone. Write a letter to someone this Christmas. It'll make someone's day.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


photograph by Robert Doisneau

Oh, for war's sweet end,
to be grounded in home,
freed from the smells
of goreI mean glory.
We kiss and
we kiss
and would do it again
do it all over again,
not me, not us, but them
they'll do it again 
for there's always a them
a new wave of them
who yearn for the glory
of the lock and load,
for the trill of the bugle
and the fame of a kiss.

This image comes from Magpie Tales, the blog dedicated to honing the pens of poets and writers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Highest Form Of Art (and goodbye to the G-Man)

                       "If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything." - Mark Twain

I recently found an old journal from a creative writing class in college in which I jotted down everything that teacher said. She told us that the highest form of art is literature and all art is about loss. I didn't understand that at the time, but I wrote it down, sitting on the edge of my seat and taking it all in. It seemed deep, like the Albert Camus novel,The Plague, which my sister gave me to read when I was only thirteen. She had high hopes for me, and I knew I was supposed to like it, but I didn't understand it.

When my brother's house burned to the ground, I wrote a poem. When we found out a family member had cancer, I wrote a poem. When my mother broke her leg and my father couldn't get out of his chair, I wrote a poem. Driving home from the hospital and forgetting the order of the Sorrowful Mysteries, I wrote a poem.

I just found out this morning that Galen Hayes, known in the blog world as Mr. Knowitall, the host of the Friday Flash 55 I participated in for several years, has died.  In one of his last posts he wrote, "Thanksgiving is not about Black Friday sales, or kicking off the Christmas shopping frenzy, it's about family, friends, and the joy of living." I did not know Galen personally, yet felt I did. I sat here and cried for this man I never knew but who touched my life and encouraged me to write my best. I would write an eulogy in 55 words but it seems this would cheapen the loss his family must now live with.

I feel guilty, relying upon tragic events for inspiration, taking advantage of misfortune to compose a sonnet, using the pain of others as fodder for my writer's ambition, my selfish dream of one day being remembered.  Must we experience tragedy and hardship to write anything worth writing? Can a youth unbowed by life write anything that will last beyond their years?

And what about memoir? After writing one, will your family still talk to you? Will they smile when they see you, or will a cloud of hostility color your gatherings, making you an outlier at the table? As a writer, if we aren't telling the truth, is there any point in writing at all? In the back of this old bedraggled journal I'd scribbled, "Write the truth as you know it."  With memory such a fickle creature, that leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Then there is also what Emily Dickinson so wisely said, "Tell the truth, but tell it slant."  I like that.  Goodbye Galen.  I will miss you.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Hounds On The Loose (flash 55)

A pickup truck stops in the middle of the road.
Hounds loosed from the back,
buck their handlers, heels grounded.
The old man looks out his window and wonders
what they’re looking for in his ditch.
He gets his cane and lumbers to his feet
wishing he could run a dog across the snow-swept field.

Time for a Flash 55. We only have 14 hours to save the earth! Rally your words and hurry over to The Imaginary Garden With Real Toads to aid the effort.

Flash, I love you!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Security Theater (flash 55)

The parking lot sparkles on patrol.
The pavement is littered with salt crystals
embedded in the asphalt like diamonds.
The salt will drain off into the sewers
and end up in surrounding wetlands
and ground water, like toxic deicing sludge.
We walk the parking lots looking for trouble,
stare at people with our theater eyes.

I'm happy to make it back into a Flash 55 community, thanks to The Imaginary Garden With Real Toads who picked up the mantle when our Mr. Knowitall (Galen) dropped it to reclaim his offline life. I've missed the 55's so thanks to all of you Toads!

If anyone has a piece of fiction in 55 words they'd like to share, go to the link above and proceed from there. I must confess, this piece, while fiction, is loosely based on facts.

Hope everyone is having a creative weekend.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hot And Cold

In The City

Boys pace the pavement
in sweat darkened T-shirts.
Girls with pink hair huddle on the curb.
School's out.

In The Country

She wears red fox around her neck
to keep her warm.
She drinks wine with musicians in the mountains
who make music that will outlive them
and the fire they sit around.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Scout

The barbed wire grapples and snags
like expectation and life gone astray
but it doesn't hurt if you can get away.
Smoke drifts closer and the dogs bray.
Hand-spun cotton but no lingerie,
practical shoes adorn bare legs.
It won't hurt if she gets away.

Photo by Tom Chambers

The image prompt comes from Magpie Tales a blog dedicated to honing the craft of writers and poets and keeping the muse alive, even when it has been ignored and neglected. For me, this image was fraught with contradiction from the barren landscape and barbed wire to the casual expression on the face of the runner, as if someone had just called her name, or asked her a question. She isn't dirty and she isn't sweating, yet she runs. Like a poem, or a short story, it leaves us half circle. The ending is ours to compose.