Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Awesome August 2014 - Wherein I Play With Words

Complex Execution of Simple Design
Hopes and dreams you cannot confine
Fairies and unicorns will never be caught
Complex execution of simple design

Across breadth of ocean and grove of pine
Wonders by ageless wisdom wrought
Hopes and dreams you cannot confine
True destiny only the heart can define
Eternal truths evermore taught
Complex execution of simple design
As long as the sun and moon still shine
Even when with fool's gold bought
Hopes and dreams you cannot confine
At end of days as destinies entwine
Bleak predictions will all come to naught
Complex execution of simple design
By cairns of old our ancient shrine
Black Mares of night nevermore sought
Hopes and dreams you cannot confine
Complex execution of simple design

The villanelle consists of five stanzas of three lines (tercets) followed by a single stanza of four lines (a quatrain) for a total of nineteen lines. It is structured by two repeating rhymes and two refrains: the first line of the first stanza serves as the last line of the second and fourth stanzas, and the third line of the first stanza serves as the last line of the third and fifth stanzas. 

My life is awesome because I have the luxury of the resources and time to indulge my passion for reading, as well as hone my writing skills. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Awesome August 2014 Sick Days with Jeopardy, Tomato Soup, and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Don Pardo passed away, an announcer for various television shows, most recently SNL. I connect him, and his voice, with some special memories.

NPR reports here on his passing , and says " Fans of Saturday Night Live, and the original versions of The Price is Right and Jeopardy recognize Don Pardo's voice immediately." 

I grew up in a small town in the mountains of southwest Virginia, Richlands. My father worked as a salesman and warehouse foreman for a wholesale grocer, Dixie Grocery. The buildings where I attended junior high school were across the street and on the other side of the railroad tracks from the Dixie (as we called it). I am the second of three children my parents had together, and the second daughter. I adored my father, and discovered quickly that if I got "sick" at school, once I was in seventh grade, that I could have the secretary call over to the Dixie and Daddy would say send her over here and I will take her home when I get my lunch break. 

This was not a ploy I could pull often, but it did work from time to time. He worked in the warehouse some days, and others he would be on the road, running his sales route. I would clamber over the railroad tracks, up the embankment (not very high at all), cross Railroad Avenue, and enter the Dixie via the loading docks. Daddy would take me into the office area and I would wait there for him until about noon. Jenny Cook was the secretary, and she would look after me and keep me out of trouble. I was fascinated by the office machines, the safe, the bustle and sounds of the place. 

When noon came, we would get in the car and go to the house, maybe a 1  1/2 mile drive. Daddy and I would heat up a can of Campbells Tomato Soup and make grilled cheese sandwiches for our lunch and watch Jeopardy (hosted by Art Fleming, announced by Don Pardo). We still had a black and white television then. Oh, my the memories!

Daddy would answer so many of the questions correctly, and I knew a few. I would try to keep our score on a piece of paper, he always won, and was conservative in his wagers. He was a smart man, and well read. He paid close attention to the news, both broadcast and print. We always had magazines, Time, NewsWeek, The New Yorker, Life, Esquire, in addition to Mom's women's magazines and TV Guide around the house. 

My parents raised us to be politically, socially, economically aware young people. We were a family that read together, and voted in turn as we were eligible. 60 Minutes was watched every Sunday night, and the NBC Nightly News was a time of mandatory silence in the house. Daddy enjoyed sports, especially football and baseball, and we watched sports frequently as well. There was always an ample supply of reference material around the house, and if you had a question, you were told to "Look it up!"

We were not wealthy, but we were rich in so many ways.

After Daddy and I had our tomato soup and cheese sandwiches, he would say, "Well, Bertie, it seems you are feeling better. Ready to go back to school?"

I do not think I fooled him at all, but how I treasured those lunches!

Don Pardo's voice will be missed by me, because it always made me think of my Daddy.

Robert Ernest "Poss" Smith
March 1915 - April 1986

I have an awesome life, because I had a man among men for a father, and am blessed to still have my mother.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Awesome August 2014 Meandering Monday

There is rain washing - again - the trees
Scrubbed clean, from leaves to knees,
By winds and showers, just yesterday.
Whatever capricious God or Woodland Fae
Looked out (or down) and thought,
"I see an acre with rubbish fraught"
Would that they had asked me first - 
Too much of a good thing makes it worse!

From my Facebook page on Sunday: 
I go in to work late today - 4 o'clock. I took the opportunity to make Lazy Hamburger Steaks. I took a pound of ground round and broke it into six pieces, added a sprinkle of Old Bay, browned one side and turned. I added a pint of sliced Baby Bella mushrooms, one half of a huge Vidalia onion I cut into petals, about a cup of beef gravy, and a real good shake of Lea and Perrins Bold steak sauce. Turned the heat down, put on a lid, and it is simmering. Can be eaten open-faced, on a bun, with Mashed Potatoes or rice ... Cooking on the fly, that is how this crone rolls!

I ate one portion with mashed potatoes before I went to work, very filling. I ate another ( Roger had taken care of the other four in the interim ) when I got home from work, this time with brown rice. My only comment would be I wish I had made more! Not shaping the meat into patties, squishing it any, really seemed to work well. I was careful when turning the meat, so as to not make crumbles. The irregular shaped rectangles were sort of whimsical, but as they were broken from the same package of meat they were of a common thickness so they cooked evenly. The looser texture of the portions also seemed to facilitate the gravy permeating the beef, making for a moist Hamburger Steak. I would be hesitant to try this with ground meat that had a very high fat content, as I did not drain any fat before adding the vegetables and gravy. I did not add oil to the skillet prior to cooking either, and had no issues with sticking.  

Politics and social unrest are wearing on me again. I see and read so much negativity, and it is not just on Facebook. It is on the news, be the source print, online content, or television. Online blogs, news outlets, pseudo-news outlets, views through the lens of various religions, beliefs, cultures ... too many agendas, too much division, too much posturing.

In addition to the national and global headlines and events, there are local concerns as well, including a campaign (special election is tomorrow - I am so relieved) that quickly went very south in tone - can we say enough mud has been slung to make bricks to build a good sized stadium? Yes, I think we can. The fact that I am personally acquainted with one of the candidates, and find him to be personable, engaging, and articulate makes the television ads and daily deluge of flyers all the more disheartening. One of the candidates has resurrected a particularly difficult and painful local event from the recent past in an ad, which I know has infuriated a town in the county where I live, and rightly so. It puzzles me to no end how a person endeavoring to be elected to a state office, to become a public servant, could not foresee the possible ramifications of dredging up events that were so horribly and tragically endured by the very people from whom votes are being solicited. It will be educational to see who wins those precincts come Wednesday morning. 

As I type this, Smokie the Black Cat is draped across my lap, catnapping. Mabon the Calico Cat is lying across Roger, cleaning her paws because, well, that is what cats do - endlessly - they clean themselves. And nap. Then demand food. Then clean and nap again. My life is awesome, not because I let myself become unsettled by politics and people, but because I have the cats and Roger and Little Beaver Creek to keep me mindful of balance, perspective, and blessings. Have a good week!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Awesome August 2014 Sunday Blessings

I thought I had lost my muse
(Too much time listening to the news)
I kept seeing spiders and webs appear
Grandmother was still very near
An entire universe lives alongside my creek
The fairies they danced, and gave me a peek

This is Hootie. Sitting on the remains of a black walnut tree that now provides a bridge for the cats to cross Little Beaver Creek and catch yummies to eat (because they have pretty much exhausted the natural food supply on our little acre).

We have Althea (Hibiscus) in bloom. The ruffled petals look like party dresses, discarded by fairies after a night of cavorting with Dragonflies and Lightening Bugs. Perchance a ride on the unicorn as well?


Roger planted ornamental gourd seed once , about five years ago. Now we have at least one volunteer vine a year. A lagniappe from the earth. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Awesome August 2014 Number Twelve (a day late)

The thing about life is ... it keeps happening, at the same rate, though at times our struggle to absorb and process events - reactions - emotions - implications - will affect the pace and timing. We may say, "Time stood still", or "The day just sped by", or "The clock got away from me", but in reality the rotation of this world in orbit around the sun was as constant as it has been for all the days we can individually account for. 

There are births and deaths, tears and laughter, joys and sorrows that mark an internal Book of Days. We in general are incapable of recalling each second of each minute we are awake. We mark certain events in our mind as noteworthy, and they become mental cairns that we use along our journey. 

Then something happens that touches people collectively. Usually a tragedy, a death, occasionally a birth or wedding or triumph of human spirit.

August 11, 2014 is looking to be one of those days for many people. 

When I was in high school we learned this definition of humor in a Speech class, taught by Howard Crouch:
Humor is the juxtaposition of incongruous circumstances.
Is the reason we react collectively to events like suicides, bombings, car crashes, earthquakes, natural and environmental disasters and mass shootings the result of the juxtaposition of light and dark, life and death, belief and reality? We do not deal with negatives well in this country. We have a sort of ingrained societal insistence of superiority, supremacy, happiness, patriotism and invulnerability that defies any of the "darker" elements that balance all of the "light" we seem to claim as a divine right. 

We judge, and judge harshly people, actions, behaviors, beliefs that do not fit into our vision of what is right. 

Is it because we are scared? Do we feel weak, vulnerable? 

Many questions, and I do not have the answers.

We build people - places - institutions into idols and ideals then cannot deal when they end up being just as human and impermanent as we individually know ourselves to be. 

I remember when John F Kennedy was assassinated, when man first walked on the moon, when Richard Nixon resigned, when Elvis Presley died, when John Lennon was murdered, when Princess Diana was killed in a car crash,  when Dale Earnhardt crashed at Daytona, 9/11, when Michael Jackson died. Now I will add Robin Williams to this list. (and yes, there is only one positive event on this list - a sad, sad fact)

I do not fear my own death, I dread the deaths of others. Because I know that in the end, none of us gets out of here alive.

Awesome August 2014 Number 13

My spirits drooped
My shoulders slooped
I craved a lift
A cosmic shift
Too much sad news
Gives one the blues
I turned to - Who?
It wasn't you
Two cats now nap
Hours on my lap
Purring warmth send
My soul to mend

Monday, August 11, 2014

Awesome August 2014 Number Nine, uh Ten, OK - Eleven

Where, Oh, Where has Ellen been? Where, Oh, Where has she gone?

I did so well, the entire month of July, and the first 8 days of August, what possibly could have derailed my writing? If you know me at all, you have probably guessed. 

Yes, a book. But not just any book. This book, that I have been waiting to read for two years. I was gifted the first book, A Discovery of Witches, about three years ago. I purchased the second book, Shadow of Night, as soon as it was published. I first thought The Book of Life would be available a year ago, following the pattern of the first two, but the publication kept getting delayed. I will not demean the author, Deborah Harkness, for making her fans wait. I cannot, being an aspiring writer myself. I have been held in thrall since the first paragraph of Book One, and am actually now mourning the end of the trilogy that has taken me on such a delightful journey. I shall so miss Diana and Matthew, and want to know what transpires with Rebecca and Philip as they grow up ... I can promise you, I will keep looking for new works by this author, she has me as a true fan. 

So anyway, between a book to read (561 pages) then rereading sections (it is that delicious) and work and sleep and cooking and feeding cats, I let my writing commitment slide. So my Awesome August has included a wonderful book, one which I can keep, and reread at my leisure. I read a great deal, and pass many books on to others who enjoy reading, but there are some (perhaps too many? No, never too many books!) that I keep and read again and again. Not always fiction, not always fantasy. Reference books, cookbooks, biographies, history, poetry - I have a very eclectic (and at times, dare I say? esoteric) taste in reading material. 

So, how about a new sonnet to start off the week?

A Sonnet to Selene

I was followed as I drove home last night
Through Glade Hollow and across Copper Ridge
My companion not scary but so bright
Lighting my way across Nashs Ford Bridge
I had hoped she would visit truth be told
Having heard she was in the neighborhood
But at times she is shy - not always bold 
I whispered a greeting - I felt I should
There were silvery moths flying about
An aerial dance to Goddess so fair
Spirit responded in sigh not a shout
Sacred time and space were united there 
Bathed in her beauty and watching her shine
Sacred communion with nature was mine