In Motion: Bellingham, Poetry, San Juan Islands, Ted Talks


Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Card 2012


Thank you for visiting Madrona Grove.  
With over 16,500 visitors in two years, you 
have given me a wonderful present!  

In a few weeks I'll launch the first poetry book from this blog:
"Madrona Grove:  Poems Written Under the Canopy"
My "staff" and I will make sure you'll know how to purchase
a copy for your collection when it becomes available.

Meanwhile, please enjoy this holiday video card of myself and 
the "staff" on a recent work retreat to Mt Baker, and a little
Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets.

White Eyes 
by Mary Oliver

In winter
     all the singing is in
         the tops of the trees
             where the wind-bird

with its white eyes
    shoves and pushes
         among the branches.
             Like any of us

he wants to go to sleep,
    but he's restless—
         he has an idea,
             and slowly it unfolds

from under his beating wings
    as long as he stays awake.
         But his big, round music, after all,
             is too breathy to last.

So, it's over.
    In the pine-crown
         he makes his nest,
             he's done all he can.

I don't know the name of this bird,
    I only imagine his glittering beak
         tucked in a white wing
             while the clouds—

which he has summoned
    from the north—
         which he has taught
             to be mild, and silent—

thicken, and begin to fall
    into the world below
         like stars, or the feathers
               of some unimaginable bird

that loves us,
    that is asleep now, and silent—
         that has turned itself
             into snow.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Poetry: Arrow

V shaped dots in the sky
Purpose driven
Direction sure
Group effort
How majestic to know

Monday, December 17, 2012

2012: Go Monk

So, here we go.  
December 21, 2012 is this Friday.  
This morning I am remembering a scene from the 2001 comedy, "Zoolander".  The one that comes to mind, while I prepare for the cosmic event, is the "Walk Off".  A heated modeling competition erupts; Hansel and Derek are tied.  A tired Hansel realizes that the only way to win the walk off against famed model Derek Zoolander is to pull his underwear off his body without removing his pants!  Understanding that such a difficult task requires concentration he declares:  "I'm going monk. I gotta go monk." 

During this recession, and with the U.S. Fiscal Cliff event happening 1/1/13, I feel like I should "go monk".  But it's not really MY underwear that I have to pull off, or is it?  *deep thoughts insert here*
I have decided to attend a Mayan Party this Friday.  Here is a message I received from the coordinator:

"It is time to leave behind what no longer serves us, whether in the form of ideas, attitudes, or actions. And it is time for that which exalts or honors us to be anchored firmly in our hearts. Let’s prepare for the birth of the new world that the Maya call the Fifth Sun. You may find the following approach helpful leading up to the 21st. This is what I’m doing so that I can be as present as possible. Gently, bravely, examine your life – your ideas, attitudes, and actions, and your reactions to them. Consider it a methodical, non-judging meditation on the inventory of your life. Non-judgment is critical in being able to see everything clearly.  

Take some quiet time each day just to be with yourself, perhaps sitting quietly or walking alone. Observe everything you think and feel. Notice that what really moves you - what makes you grateful - and take it with you. Notice what causes you anxiety or distress and set your reaction to it down on the ground."

Some things are outside of my circle of control, but they lie restlessly near my circle of concern and influence.  Events such as Fiscal Cliffs, mass shootings, asteroids, solar flares and the world ending are things I only have so much influence on.  I can vote with a ballet and my dollars, I can choose to be a good citizen, recycle and obey "Caesar", I can be kind to those I meet, etc.  Perhaps what I really need to do is GO PEASANT.  It needs to get all 15th century up in here!  Simplify my life like a peasant, kill my television and just ignore those things that I can not control.  Live day to day off the land.  Honestly, I could do this, as long as I got to keep my washing machine.

The blog below is among my most viewed, thought I would re-post it today.  


Written: March 10, 2009

Edited: March 27, 2011

The Ides of March, per the Roman calendar is March 15th. In Roman times, the Ides of March was a festive day dedicated to the god Mars and a military parade was usually held. In modern times, the term Ides of March is best known as the date that Julius Caesar was assassinated, in 44 BC. .

Poor Caesar. In Shakespeare's play he was warned by a soothsayer, "Beware the Ides of March!" Caesar visited with the seer who had foretold that harm would come to him no later than the Ides of March. Caesar joked, "Well, the Ides of March have come", to which the seer replied "Ay, they have come, but they are not gone." Despite this warning he chooses to appear in court and face his fate. I often wonder when he went to “work”, what was he thinking? Perhaps, he thought, whatever happens I can fight it and live, or maybe he was so full of himself he thought no harm could come to him? Regardless, the senators knew he was a mortal, could be killed, and so proved it to the world with each stab.

In Roman times the expression “Ides of March” did not evoke a dark mood- it was simply the standard way of saying “March 15.” In my life I see many warnings. Soothsayers, or talking heads, are on the news every night trying to predict the future. There are even some conspirators that believe the exact day of a new age for the earth will be December 21, 2012!

If you Google “2012” you’ll find all sorts of sites that talk about this doomed day. One site sells books and T-Shirts, another gives you tips on how to survive it, there is even a “2012” movie coming out November 13th! What the heck is going to happen? Is December 21st our Ides of March? I decided to do some research.

The Long County Calendar of the Ancient Mayans ends on Monday, Dec. 21, 2012. There isn’t much information regarding what the Mayans thought would occur in 2012, but the consensus of opinion is that there will be a great change. To some people this means a positive, spiritual change, to others the end of the world. Ian O’Neill, in Universe Today, wrote that the Mayan calendar is just ending; the next day (our Dec 22, 2012) would start the year “0000” and thus the Mayan calendar just resets, much like a cars odometer rolling over. Astrologers say that the stars tell us: “The date December 21st, 2012 A.D. ( in the Long Count), represents an extremely close conjunction of the Winter Solstice Sun with the crossing point of the Galactic Equator (Equator of the Milky Way) and the Ecliptic (path of the Sun), what the ancient Mayans recognized as the Sacred Tree. This is an event that has been coming to resonance very slowly over thousands and thousands of years. It will come to resolution at exactly 11:11 am GMT. According to the Mayas the center of the Galaxy is the cosmic womb: the place of dead, transformation, regeneration and rebirth.”*

So the modern day soothsayers have said their part. They have thrown out this information and their interpretation to the public. And like Caesar, we are faced with a decision. Should we go on with life as normal, go hide in a cave until it’s all over, or maybe purchase more camping supplies and guns? Caesar was brave enough to face his fate, will I do the same?

This upcoming “event” reminds me a little of the Millennium Bug scare. In the years prior to 2000, experts advised that our computerized life as we knew it could end just one second pass midnight on January 1, 12:00 a.m. Anything that ran on computers including Air Traffic Control systems, banks and security system etc, would all fail us. This time around I’m going to choose to be strong like Caesar. I’ll just walk into that fateful day three years from now with my head held high. What happens will happen. Nothing is worth living in fear over; besides, I don't have a bomb shelter.

*Mayan Calendar site:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Short Story: Wolf and Girl

You never know where a great idea for a story will come from.  To me the definition of a "great story" is one you can't stop writing.  A world that awakens every time a finger tip hits a key, because you yourself love it!  
The story below is a snip from a writing warm up I started one morning, based on a dream I had.  Meant to only be 1-2 pages long, I have decided to expand it into a short story.  My original goal for the exercise was to add place and time to the events.  All stories have to have a world where they wiggle and run.  This is a "Great Story" and I can't stop writing...  

Wolf and Girl

1364, the Black Forest of Germany and fairy tales, where witches hollered out spells to the sky, and blood sucking creatures, that feed on our dead less than fifteen years prior were born.  The Black Death brought the wolves down out of the forest and into the fringe boundaries of our little town where the dead were burned and buried.   Hungry wolves found dead bodies an easy meal.  Dead mothers, brothers, sisters dragged off, bones licked clean before a priest could speak a prayer.  Great hunters, immune to the plague, rose up, in honor of the dead.  These hunters were paid in wolf pelts, God’s blessing for returning the dead and free beers at the pub.  Hunting parties killed many wolves, none more than my father. 

Mother died in the plague.  Father said my birth weakened her.  Her heart was stronger than most, yet it was not her heart she gave me, but her eyes.  As I grew, I resembled her, which only angered my father more.  The memory of his dead love standing before him every day was like a cut that never healed.  Father’s fame of being the regions “champion hunter” died and ran off with the packs that left in search of new grounds.  Father is now a shell, angry, empty, and full of fermented drink and hate.  Hate towards me, hate towards God. 

When the wolf packs left, my beatings began.  They became more frequent after my hair darkened months later.  Black like the night, it draped over my features, keeping me hidden from him, when I escaped into the woods.  The woods were the last place I should hide from a “champion hunter” who, it was said “could track the wind itself through the thickest brush.”   Yet father let me hide.  He let me run.   His threats would race out the door, as sharp as his ax, chasing me up into the mountains, until my silhouette was hidden from site.  Always he stopped only four trees deep into the forest before resting up against an old pine.  The screams were like a wolf’s howl, words slurred by beer and grief, “Come home!   You can’t hide from me!  I am Reinhardt the greatest hunter!”   I ran until I all I could hear was the sound of the waterfall that never stops, and then I ran some more.

One day while picking berries I found a spot, high in the wood, where an old giant had been cut down.  It made for a nice table, bed and chair; a home for my imagination. In the day I would pretend this was my home, a happy place, full of peace and prosperity.  I was a princess married to a prince and our children were beautiful.   At night, if the sky was clear, moon light would find that tree stump through the dense crowd of conifers for a brief hour, "magic hour" I called it.  When father was at his worst and I knew there was hell to pay, I escaped to my magic place waiting for the beer to leave his blood.   

Last Night

There was a wedding in town.  Everyone in the village was invited and beer flowed like the river Danube.  Father drank more than ever that night.  Free beer goes down easy.  Tonight was my chance!

I raced home ahead of Father to pack, raced in the dark up the quickest trail to the cabin; stars guiding me.  The moon was still low in the sky.  It would be above the trees in a hour lighting my way away from here.  Tonight, the night of the full moon, would be the last night I would spend in the home I was born in.  I knew he would kill me, before forgiving God.  I packed, for a future unknown, I packed for my life.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Poetry: Love Lock


I have a poem
I will not throw away
by accident
or on purpose:

The morning light
cuts through the trees
waking the birds
to their song

Leaves stretch
for the sun,
fish jump at
the dragonfly,
deer’s in the meadow
nuzzle at the grass

How far will you
go for love

Before you accept it
must you test it?
Before you cradle it
must you birth it?
Before you kiss it
must you grasp it?

Mind to mind
Arms in arms
Lips to lips


Over mind
Over body
Over life

Monday, November 26, 2012

Poetry: Apple Tree Orphan

"And when he was tired, he would sleep in her shade. 
And the boy loved the tree... and the tree was happy." 
-The Giving Tree by Shel Shilverstein

Apple Tree Orphan

Among the green majestic towers
Beneath the canopy looking for sun
A young tree grows

Discarded by its owner
Thrown from the pot
Considered waste and unfruitful

The parents of the forest
shed and share
their bark bits
until the tiny tree’s roots grow

The rain brings nourishment
The animals’ fertilizer
The worms’ compost

Slowly the tree grows
Slowly the flower buds emerge
Slowly the fruit is exposed

Years pass
A hungry mind walks by
Thirsty for fruit
Ready for fruit

The tree once discarded
Has become nourishment for another
Thanks to the ways of the forest
Yet its forest family is confused

We take care of our own
Little tree, why must you
Give up your fruit to anyone?

The tree thinks on this
“I am a fruit tree standing among firs
Your fruit is pine cones, mine apples.

If you knew how tasty they are
You would not wonder why
The fruit lover desires apples not cones”

Little tree, you grow food
That you have no mouth for.
You will never bite into your own apple.
Why would you grow?
Why would you thirst for sun?
Why would you bring forth fruit,
Just to have another eat it?

“My food is in the soil.
My warmth is from the sun.
My joy comes from another’s satisfied smile
At my job well done.”

Yarn Bombing in Germany

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It's Time for Ham

OK, true story:

One holiday four generations of family are all gathered together in the youngest daughter’s new home for a rare time together. This is her first time hosting a family dinner. Her mom is helping her with the ham.  The daughter plops the large ham into its pan and asks the mom, “OK what do we do next?” 

“Well,” answered the mom, “first thing we need to do is cut off the ends of the ham, just the sides about 2 inches worth.” “Why?”, asks the daughter. “I don’t know, but my mom always did it, and her ham’s turn out great every time.”

They call the girls grandma in, “Grandma, why do you cut the ends of the ham before cooking?”

“Gosh, I don’t know why. Never thought of it. MY mother cut the ends off, so that’s how I've always done it. How funny.”

The three ladies quickly walk out to the living room to find the girl’s great-grandmother sitting and talking with family. “G.G., I have a question for you. Why do you cut the ends of the ham off?”

“Well, I don’t know why YOU cut the ends of the ham off, but I had to cut the ends off or it wouldn't fit into my oven!”

It’s good to know WHY you do what you do, so that you don’t waste any ham.

Note from S.P.:
For four years now I have posted this story on my blog during the holidays. This year my mom is cooking ham and her world famous gravy.  I'm taking the week off to spend time with friends & family.   Whether you are having ham, turkey, or take out, I wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!

Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. 
If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough. 
~Oprah Winfrey 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Poetry: Green


Oh, to be the type of green
that stays green through the frost,
when the ground is white and
branches are heavy with Winter's weight

Brown, red, orange,
the colors of fall
most greens do fade
retracting in the cold air

Freezing, or the warm summers sun
to be green in all seasons,
fresh to the touch
ever holding the color of LIFE!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Book: Two Poems Pub Here!

Through the Eyes of Islanders
The Beauty of the San Juan Islands
By The San Juan Islands Photographic Journal Second Edition

It is an honor to have my poetry amongst the work of so many wonderful island photographers.  -S.P. Laws

"This beautiful eBook is filled with images by San Juan Islanders. Curated by famed National Geographic photographer David Hiser, Director at Anderson Ranch, Andrea Wallace and acclaimed photographer George Stranahan. Winners are Natasha Ryder, Rod Magner, Bob Phalen and Martin Taylor. This unique book offers a view of life and vistas in the San Juan Islands as only the people who live here can convey." 
-Alex Huppenthal

Makes an unique holiday present

Click to view photos!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Poetry: Spiders Dream

Moths fly in flocks
in my dream, Spiders
ride their backs
binoculars at all eyes.
Predator owns the meat,
venom at the fang
drips down the reins
scopulas grip tight.
The threat of death 
makes moths fly longer 
than they should.
Heavy burden to carry
eight legs more 
your own.
Spider's spurs
can not keep 
the moth from 
a porch light.
So strong that pull,
positively phototactic!
Oh spider, you can 
ride a moth and 
steer it some,
but never can you 
make it NOT a moth.
You will be bucked
when you fly by night

Monday, November 5, 2012

Article: PTSD, Fight, Flight or Freeze

Fight, Flight or Frozen
Have you ever been frozen? The other day I witnessed my cat having a close encounter with one of our islands red foxes.  It was interesting to watch; my heart pounded wondering if I was witnessing the end of our “Princess”.  From my perspective, atop the second story deck, it looked as if the cat had more than enough room to run and make it to the stairs to safety, but instead she froze.  The fox “screamed” at the cat trying to get a reaction of some kind; it was a standoff.  After ten minutes my son went down with a broom and broke it up; disrupting the trance.  Why didn't the cat run?

During a traumatic experience, animals and humans alike, will either “fight, flight or freeze”.  This is a normal brain function that helps us during an emergency situation.  Many people are alive today because this instinct kicked in.  Often you’ll hear stories about people in traumatic situations on the news.  They may say: “The guy was on me and I just started punching, hitting him, hitting anything that came my way!” or “The earth started shaking and I just ran out of the building, as fast as I could!”  But, what happens when we freeze?

The Limbic System
Our Limbic System, or 'reptilian' brain, takes over during a horrifying event and decides within nano seconds if there is enough strength, time and room to fight or run.  If so the body with fight or run, if not it will freeze.  Freezing is chosen as the last resort; the mind determines that the threat is so massive, that fighting it or running away would result in death.  The body plays dead like a mouse going limp in the mouth of a cat.

The Limbic System is an interesting part of the brain made up of two main parts, the amygdale and the hippocampus.  If you like horror movies then get a ticket to “Amygdale Theater”.  The amygdale acts like a video recorder of highly charged emotional memories, such as terror and horror.  Studies have shown that the amygdala becomes very active when there is a traumatic threat.  It’s believed memories of our most horrific events are stored here.  Perhaps the cause of the “flashbacks” many who suffer from being a victim or a witness to traumatic events often talk about. 

The hippocampus’s normal function is to store memory of time and space, putting our memories of life into their proper perspective and place in our life's time line.  For example:  I was 6 when I rode my first bike, I was 16 when I got my first car.”  You know this, because you remember it; you were there.  When face with a traumatic threat, however, the hippocampus becomes suppressed.  It’s unable, or unwilling, to place the memory into its proper place in the past.  This gives the event an effect of “floating in time” instead of being in our time line as last February, for example, it will feel like it happened just this morning, in the present.  The brain is trying to save the self from suffering, which it does very well, but at a price.  These two parts of the Limbic System “tag team” each other and create a difficult environment for people to heal and move on.  The amygdale providing the victim with a repetitive movie and highlights of the event, and the hippocampus making you “feel” as though it just happened. Not very nice. 

Folks with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may experience physical reactions such as heighten blood pressure, or shortness of breath when reliving the event.  Many people who were involved in car accidents or close calls say “it was like everything was happening in slow motion.”  The perception of time was slowed down so we can analyze the situation better and search for an escape route, thanks to that little hippocampus. 

Without proper therapy and depending of the severity of the event these little “reenactments” could  blossom into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or even Dissociative Disorder

As a humanist I am continually perplexed by the wide range of emotional situations our neighbors, whether in our neighborhood or over seas, have to endure.  There are so many issues, and events we witness and must recover from in order to survive.  Some people are fighting for their rights as citizens, others flee a common threat such as famine or an army.  Still some are just frozen, unable to control their surroundings, feeling helpless, such as a battered wife. 

Understanding how and why our body and mind work can help us to heal and allow us to forgive ourselves.  We did what we did because the threat was so fierce our primal instincts took over to help us survive the encounter.  What happened wasn't normal, it was extraordinary, and we did the best we could.


Article by: S. P. Laws, 2009 Helium


Friday, November 2, 2012

Poetry: Web of Glass

There is a spiders home
attached outside the top floor 
window of the hospital.
Its home faces south west;
view of the woods.

The dot-like body bounces
in the wind 
web too transparent 
for me to ponder upon

How many flies does it catch on the sixth floor?
Not many, not enough

Bugs that hit the glass
aiming for the hallway light
get tangled by deception

Window washer will come
reclaim that space
with a squeegee.
By then the 
eight legged creature surely
will be dead

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Poetry: Ghostly Eyes

Waking up always
Same time on the clock
Walk through my house
Steps on an unchanging track

I see you
A solid mass
Your feet touch the ground
grasp the earth

My specter form floats by
Unperceived by the blind
Ignored by the angry
Forgotten by the busy

I remember what living was like

I see you all
From my ghostly eyes
Orbs of mist
And compromise

~A spooky poem from my 2010 collection
S.P. Laws

Friday, October 12, 2012

Poetry: Puppeteer


You turn me
Like a camera setting
Normal to negative
With a click

My voice modulates
To your ear
High tones dialed down
Pitch bent skewed

You hand me a script
Q and A for the party
Lists topics to avoid
People I may talk to

How do I look?

You look me over
Black evening dress
Hair up, heels high
Proper posture

Oh, you forgot these…

I touch my ears,
Barren of drops, and smile.
You turn to reach inside a drawer
And pull out strings.

"Marionette Series" Oil on canvas
by Sarah Dixon

Monday, October 8, 2012


As a writer I am often overtaken by my characters.  Trying to imagine what a new character is thinking, how they would walk, talk, what kind of clothes they wear and what they’ll do next is in the job description.  Yet sometimes I’ll have an encounter SO real that it seems more like entertaining a house guest instead of character development.  Visitation or not this interesting dream encounter with a former plantation slave moved me.
While working on copy for my radio blues program, Boosie’s Playhouse Classic Blues, an unexpected guess knocked on the door of my subconscious. Late one evening I was focused on the origin of the blues.  I learned that the blues started in the fields by slaves call and responding to each other in rhythm to help make the tedious work go by faster, and  to communicate with each other, sometimes in code.  Still thinking on this, I retired for the night, slipped under the covers and fell into a dream.

In my dream I sat writing at a desk, wrestling with words, when the spirit of a man walked in and sat down across from me.  The outline of his form glowed giving no doubt that he crossed over from another world, the gateway behind him was blurred.  Lights in the room changed with his presence, turning from fluorescent to candlelight, the walls of the room from brick to log, and the furniture itself changed before my eyes from 21st century to the 19th

Somehow, in my dream, I knew all about proper ghost etiquette.  When you meet a spirit it is like having the sensation of a butterfly landing on your cheek.  It is wonderful, yet you know instinctively how fragile they are.  You can scare them away with sudden movements or loud noises.  They do not want anything from you, but for you to listen.  Listen to their story, to hear their voice.  If you are fortunate enough to hear a spirit speak, do not ever forget what they tell you.  You must, out of respect for the dead, always remember what it is they tell you.  The only wish of the dead is to be remembered.  And so, I opened my understanding, while I waited for him to speak.

The ghost in my dream had beautiful dark skin, light brown cotton trousers hung from his hips and a loose fitting white shirt.  Broad shoulders and strong arms framed his torso.  He must of been, at least six feet tall when standing.  His demeanor, and this is most important, was like a deep river, moving peacefully.  He was going to talk to me; I could feel it, as long as I stay still, and so I did... 

His large hand rubbed his face as he started to form words.  My ears perked up as his story filled my mind; his voice was warm,  “I came here to explain to you what it was like to be a slave.  Being a slave is to be tortured.  To have to no control over your life.  Your day and life are chosen for you, and yet you dream.  You dream of what you think freedom would be like.  You dream of control.  It seems you have been hurt for a long time and prayed those silent prayers while enduring your pain, and that you kept walking through the pain. That is how I found you.”  The air tingled as his voice gave instruction,  “Listen now.  Being free, legally free, will not give you true freedom.  Until you forgive those that hurt you, you will always be bound up in chains!” 

He continued using words and images as he told me his story. For half his life he was a slave in Georgia, then in 1866, he was a free man working as a sharecropper up North.  His children were born free, by his wife who wore his ring, in the home he owned.   His dream to control his own destiny came true, yet something was missing:  forgiveness.  Somehow along the way, he found forgiveness for the slave owners.  He said he knew those dark hearten torturers would never tell him they were sorry, they would never beg for his forgiveness, so to rid himself of the final burden HE forgave THEM.  Those mindless, faceless, nameless torturers of slaves, he forgave them. 

The Gift of Forgiveness 
Forgiveness insures that the people who hurt us do not continue to hurt or have power over us.  You must forgive in order to move on.  I was overwhelmed with joy to hear my ghost friend share his story.  He left with a whisper as I woke with a jump.  I knew I had to write it all down, every detail!

Some believe that the power to forgive is a gift from heaven.  The Visitor's comment "walking through my pain" was in reference to my recent divorce.   Many divorcees hold onto their hatred for their ex’s.  I have met ladies who hold onto hate.  I have seen how it keeps them from enjoying the new life they are trying to build for themselves.  Hate makes us sick!

If you really want to be free from hate, you have to forgive.  This is true for me; I know it without any doubt. 

What an interesting dream.  I shall think on it for a long time.  I do not understand how or why I had this dream but I am thankful for it.  Perhaps it was my subconscious trying to make a personal connection between what I was working on and my past.  Or perhaps, just maybe, a spirit came to talk.

Good stuff here:

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Blog: Writing Is My Drink

Theo Pauline Nestor's blog Writing Is My Drink,  is cleaver and fresh.  Recently a writer friend of mine alerted me to her latest blog titled "Networking and Other Things I Don't Want to Do."   
With there being a massive online community for a writer to give attention too, it's easy for one to get overwhelmed regarding time management.  The bottom line being that writers need time to write.  Writing takes up a lot of time; time alone with maybe just a cat or a plant to keep you company.  Theo has found ideas to keep balanced and stay plugged into the world.  Below is an excerpt from that blog.  Enjoy!

"Q. How important is networking to developing a successful writing career?
A. In a recent interview I saw republished in Real Change newspaper, memoirist Nick Flynn (Another Bullshit Night in Suck City) said that he sees his development as a writer akin to the Buddhist approach to spiritual development: a three-pronged approach that includes sangha (community), dharma (study/reading) and meditation (practice/writing).  I really like this idea.  Instead of thinking of networking as a business activity you need to do to get ahead, I think it’s really helpful to look at building a writing community as an important aspect of how you nurture yourself as a writer, how you stay inspired and excited.  I think when people go out to do big N NETWORKING as a means of getting ahead, they are often disappointed and frustrated as the luck and chance and opportunities that can come from knowing other writers tend to be something that comes with serendipity and is something that can’t be forced.  But if you look at building a writing community as something that’s fun and happy, you’ll probably want to do it and will do it in a natural way that is really an extension of who you are.  You’ll take classes or workshops or maybe you’ll go to a conference here and there over the years, and here and there you’ll connect with a new writer you really like. It’ll be fun–it’ll be making a friend.  Maybe that friend will connect you to a writing group or turn you onto a great book. That group or book will lead you to something else, a new opportunity or possibility.  One day one of these people might have a suggestion for you that you follow and that suggestion will turn into an opportunity that opens a first door.  You’ll go through that door. You’ll meet more people. If it’s as easy as breathing, you’re doing it right."


Friday, September 28, 2012

Poetry: September Bellingham

Down the hill my city sits
Waves nip at its hair
Freeway scratches the belly
Mountains hold down its hip
Low mist rolled in early,
refuses to leave this cove
Down into the clouds I walk,
floating up into a subdued world
Here exhales are marked,
Talk can be seen
Sun baths buildings
in a peach-warm glow
as it fights the floating moisture
that crowns my
September Bellingham
visibility still only four blocks.

The sun burns while seagulls
dance in the sky
Photo by Matthew Anderson/WWU
Bellingham in morning fog, September 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Song: I Love

My mom came up for a visit today.  Mom and I both share the gift of gab.  We chatted all through breakfast and during coffee, while doing a project around my home, and had a nice chat over a glass of water.  We touched on many subjects.  Somehow we started to talk about the old days of family vacations, road trips, camping out an
d the songs she and my aunt taught my cousins and I. To help quicken the time getting from point A to point B we would sing songs in the car.  Did you do this?  Do you remember the songs you use to sing?

I love little baby ducks...
Mom and I tried to remember all the songs and made a list: Oh Susanna, Clementine, Found a Peanut, 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, I Know an Old Lady, You are My Sunshine, Oh You Can't Get to Heaven.  Then mom said, "You know we sang many old folk songs when you were little, but one I always liked was "I Love" by Tom T Hall."  That did not sound familiar to me.  However, music holds memory, and triggers emotional like few things can.  As soon as she started to hum a few bars of that song, I was 11 and we were at the beach sitting around a campfire.  That song transported me back many years to a wonderful time in my life!

Later I looked up the lyrics to "I Love" and just had to share it with you.  Please look up the song online and listen to it.  It's a sweet one.


I love little baby ducks,
Old pick-up trucks,
Slow movin’ trains, and rain.

I love little country streams,
Sleep without dreams,
Sunday school in May, and hay.

And I love you too.

I love leaves in the wind,
Pictures of my friends,
Birds of the world, and squirrels.

I love coffee in a cup,
Little fuzzy pups,
Bourbon in a glass, and grass.

And I love you too.

I love honest open smiles,
Kisses from a child,
Tomatoes on a vine, and onions.

I love winners when they cry,
Losers when they try,
Music when it's good, and life.

And I love you too.
Tom T Hall

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What Are You?

For the first two weeks of my life I was an orphan.  My birth mother left me at the Seattle hospital I was born in.  She walked in to the emergency room in labor, gave birth and left the next day.  Gone.  Nothing but a one page form filled out.  It's doubtful that the information she gave was truthful, I never found out.  Fortunately, when I was just two weeks old, my future parents took me in as a foster child.  They adopted me a year later.  I grew up in a happy home.  I was lucky.

Throughout my life there were little moments when not having birth family health history was an issue, usually with trips to the doctor.  Most forms ask for family history.  For example when I was pregnant, the form asked if miscarriages, natural or multiple births ran in the family.  Always I entered "adopted" on the blank line.

Painted faces from the World Cup 2012
In my younger years, growing up in an area with a low minority population, people, sometimes strangers, would ask me awkward questions.  Some people are not graceful when they ask about your adoption or race.  In America , there is still a sense of taboo about being adopted, especially by the folks from my grandparents generation.  However, the question of WHO gave me up and WHY, is shadowed by another.  The most asked question from others is "What are you?"   ...'scuse me? Yes, it's true.  Sometimes I'll respond, "I'm human.  What are you?"  However, when I'm in a good mood, I answer with the only one I have:  "Me? Oh I'm Irish and German.", then watch them try to figure out how my features fit into those categories.  "You mean Black Irish?"

Honestly, I love my family and adopted the heritage of my parents.  My mother's parents both are of German decent, from the Northern Rhine region, came over before WWI.  Mom was born and raised on a mid-west farm.  My father is Irish-Canadian, his Grandfather moved down to Minnesota a hundred years ago to farm.  My dad's mother was a Dunbar.  Dad was raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Perhaps you associate blond hair, blue eyes with someone with a Northern European genealogy.  In fact I have black hair and brown eyes, and tend to stick out like a sore thumb in family photos.  No big whoop.  Inside I felt, talked, played and thought like the family I was raised in.  My attitude has always been, if someone has a problem with you, it is their problem not yours.

What are you?  Folks are often confused by my features and can't figure it out, and sometimes really need to figure it out.  Of all the little issues with being adopted this one is the most confusing for me.  People have guessed that I could be Mexican, Spanish, Italian, Jewish, Slavic, Black Irish, even Gypsy.  No one guesses German or Irish.  I do wonder about my blood line, but WHY is it so important to other people, especially to people that I just met, what my race, nationality or ethnicity is?  Is there a box in their head they are trying to put me in?

Over time, my position regarding what I am changed slightly.  Since I don't know what race I am, I decided to be ALL races.  This attitude comes in handy and lightens the conversation at times.  Once I offered a friend some hummus.  They went on a rampage about how they hated hummus and that it was a "stupid hippie dip."  I informed him that he was insulting my people.  This friend knew I was adopted and joked back, "You don't know who your people are."  I responded proudly, "Then I am ALL people."  We were joking around, but honestly aren't we all a little bit of EVERYBODY?

Pedigree Collapse
The truth is that we are everybody... or I mean everyone.  Genealogy is a fickle beast.  Did you hear about the guy who discovered he was a direct relative to King Charlemagne?  NPR ran a great article about the issue of Pedigree Collapse.  It goes something like this:  if you count your direct ancestors backward through time, the further back you go, obviously, the more ancestors you have. But when you do the numbers, something queer happens.

King Charlemagne 742-814,
The "Father of Europe" 
Go back to A.D. 800 and the number of direct ancestors is, well, puzzling. You start with two grandparents, then four great-grandparents, then on to eight, 16, etc., and by the time you get to A.D. 800, the number averages to about 562,949,953,421,321. That's a lot of people. In fact, that's more people than have ever lived.

So somethings wrong.

What's wrong is at some point up the line, people get counted twice, or three times. Your great-great-great-great-grandma on one line turns out to also be a great-great-great-great-grandma on another line. The same person can show up multiple times. You get duplicates. And way back, when the population of humans was much smaller, pretty much every line is duplicating heavily till at some point, everybody is your direct ancestor.

So see I wasn't too far off.  I am related to all and all is everybody.  
(...oh and don't insult my people!)