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

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Eve Walk

The legs of the pier were standing on the sky.  The bay water thick, and the activity of what plays in it a mystery to my eye.  Clouds and patches of blue, just fainting from the late afternoon, spread over the waves.  

Sky dancing on the Sea

Various sea fowl floated along, feet paddle as rudders, guide them wherever they want to go.  Where did they want to go?  Were the birds out for a walk?  A walk before dusk, before the sun sets and they sleep in nests I cannot guess to know the location?  What sort of blood would a water bird have to not freeze up on a day like this?  

I need to know all of this, wondering about everything I see, today this walk distracts me, I am filled with wonder!


I walk.  I walk alone.  Determined to cry if I wanted, if the tears came.  If the tears rise up inside me, I would let them flow, because I was alone, and I would allowed it.  It did not bother me myself too heavy, that my scarf and hat did not match, that my shoes had a small tear in the left toe, because I was alone, and I am happy.  I am happy and comfortable with myself.  Right now, I am happy and free and I feel like crying tears of happiness... 

Or is it the cold wind finding it's way to 
the water I carry behind my iris?  
Pulling drops out with each blink, 
as gentle as a Grandmother in her kitchen.


I want to hug this damn planet.  This scene on the waterfront.  'Effing Christmas Eve and people are drinking hot chocolate, walking with family, friends, and their dogs.  People are happy here.  Right here!  Right now!

A dog off leash barks a happy hello to me, as if it knows me, as if we are long lost friends, separated on a trip to France, torn apart by war, each thought the other dead, but now- discover the other is alive!  

It’s the happiest bark I have ever had the privilege of receiving.  

The Happiest Dog EVER
The black lab, walks quickly towards me and brushes my left leg like a hug, tail wagging, tongue dripping out of its open mouth, nose pointing, below the dock, below on the beach- a young German Sheppard is playing fetch with its owners.  The Sheppard barks a hello back to my long lost friend.  How easy it is to understand the language of “dog”.  They are simple.

I walk from Fairhaven, along the pier to Boulevard Park, around the loop and then back towards my car.  I see all sorts of people; joggers, walkers, strollers, families, people of all ages.  No otters today, only birds floating on the sky.

Sea Otters on Vacation

I imagine a post card from the Otters, a photo of a furry family floating on Californian sea kelp, "Having fun, fish you were here"

I stop where the pier bends uphill, away from the water.  Then I see it- just there, right over there, between the spit I can walk to, and an island across the bay, ...just there in a “V” shaped, black land-line at the horizon, is the glow of the winter sun setting.  A peach, then pink, soon dark purple, then stars.  I stare at it for a while.


A walker-lady stops and asks me, “Do you see anything interesting?”

“No, nothing today, not even the otters”




***



Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Card

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 
from the 
SPLaws staff
Shannon, Brad, Vin, Chris, and Robert

L-R: Chris Pine, Brad Pitt, Shannon Laws,
Robert Downey Jr, Vin Diesel

Here, at the SPLaws offices, we had a slight change of staff since 2012. Abe retired and Tom, who has been with us since 2011, disappeared into another timeline. Both will be missed dearly and we wish them well. Thankfully Chris Pine has stepped in to fill the shoes of two people, no less.  In addition to being a great dancer, his research skills are out of this world!  He shows great promise in producing extraordinary work for 2014.  

When I was growing up, my mom would type up a Christmas letter to friends and family.  A Christmas letter is like the families year in review designed to update distant relatives on the years accomplishments.  In that tradition I have composed a letter about the 2013 highlights for SPLaws, Inc.  It has been another electric year!

Read it, or don't, perhaps you treat them like fruit cake.  Either way thanks for stopping by and helping to get our visitor numbers pass 30k this year! Please leave a comment, and keep it real for 2014.  

Shannon Laws
President
SPLaws, Chickadee Productions
Bellingham, Washington USA


***

SPLaws Christmas Letter

This year I did not find much in the way of PAID jobs, but with the extra time on my hands my volunteer work excelled.  I was paid in love and new life experiences.  If only I could take it to the bank I'd be a millionaire!  Here are some highlights -with photos- from 2013:

BOOK RELEASE
My book on the shelf
at Village Books
In January 2013 I released my first poetry book "Madrona Grove: Poems Written Under the Canopy", Chickadee Productions, available at Village Books, Bellingham.  The book includes my original poems from 2010-2012.  During these two years I was divorced, reborn in my writing, moved off San Juan Island and was embraced by the city of Bellingham.  The poems are a real document to a personal journey I shall never forget.

my new writers photo
BELLINGHAM HERLAD ARTICLE
In July, MARGARET BIKMAN from the Bellingham Herald interviewed me to promote my book reading.

"Shannon P. Laws was born in Seattle and raised in Federal Way, where, she says, "as a teenager I learned that when a guy from Auburn asks you out on a date, he will most likely pick you up in a stolen car." 


Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2013/07/18/3087501/shannon-p-laws-explores-world.html#storylink=cpy


Jared and I at a joint book
reading event on SJI
In May I traveled with retired actor, novelist and children's book author Jared McVay for a book reading on San Juan Island, and shared some poems at the Big Rock Garden Party for Mother's Day.






Group photo of guest speakers
at the Tagore Festival 

September I appeared as a guest speaker at the Tagore Festival in Richmond, British Columbia.  
A yearly event to honor India's poet 
Rabindranath Tagore, (May 1861- Aug. 1941)  


I will be the waves and you will be a strange shore.
I shall roll on and on and on, and break upon your lap with
laughter. 


"Squabbling Ravens"
VBPG Signature photo
courtesy of SJI artist Dona Reed

HOSTING VBPG
Village Books Poetry Group, 29 members strong, continued to meet bi-monthly at the independent book store in Fairhaven this year. It is a group I enjoy tremendously.  Many of our regulars are folks who are sharing their poetry for the first time. VBPG is a diverse group from many different cultural and professional backgrounds, linked together with our love for words.




Dave at the start of
Downtown Sounds,
beer garden side, of course


DOWNTOWN SOUNDS/KMRE
I am a volunteer DJ at Spark Radio, KMRE 102.3.  The station is an extension of the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention, at 1312 Bay Street, in downtown Bellingham.  Dave the K (The Rockin' Surfer) and I were the on-air host's for the cities Downtown Sounds.  The free concert, food, beer garden and street entertainment event is held on Bay Street for five Wednesday evenings in a row, July-August.  Great fun!





Jon Winter and I at SPARK
NEW AMERICANA
The 13 radio programs I produced in 2013 "New Americana" developed a large following.  Brent, the station manager, has approved it for a full season, 26 shows, in 2014.  I co-host the show with the museum's co-founder, Jonathan Winter, a real gem of Bellingham and a pleasure to work with.  The talk/music show brings in a local guest, usually a musician, who shares the top five songs that have influenced their life. You can hear the 2013 podcast of the show here:

Casey Sulkin, retired DJ and
jazz club owner, I co-hosted
with Casey on his jazz show
"The Swing Shift" for a
few months
Bellingham's Fast Five, or BFF, rotating features on KMRE, debuted this summer.  I created the concept to provide more attention to our New Americana guest by producing a five minute musical promo.  Local musician and well loved hamster, Bert Monroe, worked with me as voice talent on these informative features.


POETIC MOMENTS
This is an end of the year project for me.  There are so many wonderful poets in Bellingham.  I want to share them with the world! Poetic Moments are short features, under 2 minutes in length, that started to rotate on KMRE 102.3 in December.  My goal was to record 60 poems.  Over 25 poets came out to donate their words, and 93 poems were recorded!  More poems will be added in February, 2014.  Catch a taste of these amazing poets here:




FAIRHAVEN ART BLOCK
In September Carla and I, representing the Chuckanut Sandstone Writers Theater, had the privilege of working with the Bellingham Repertory Dance group, the Firehouse Performing Arts Center, and Lucia Douglas Art Gallery on a group project. We organized the street festival Fairhaven Art Block party, or FAB.   This event was designed to share the artist community of Fairhaven with it's residences.  Folks were encouraged to walk from the art gallery to the Firehouse, just a block over, along a path littered with poets reading live poetry for any passersby.  Music and dance intermingled with the guests.  It will return for 2014.



Poets for Peace l/r Carla, Betty,
C.J. and good friend Denise

November worked with three local poets to organize and launch the first POETS FOR PEACE Read-In Write-On International poetry event, held in Bellingham's South Hill neighborhood. Poets from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. shared poems about peace from 2-8:30 p.m., 'till the last poet spoke. The event was a great success! Plans for another in 2014 is in the works.



What a fun year.  My mom asked me a few months ago, over coffee of course, how I got into poetry.  It was hard for me to answer her at the time, had to think about it a bit.  I love writing short stories, blogging and working on my novels. However, poetry, I find, is much like gardening. When I use to have dirt to dig in, I would flower garden.  A few hours a week, or month depending on the year, of work produced immediate gratification = a clean and beautiful yard.  Poetry is quick work, one or two pages, and once edited and polished, gives me a great deal of satisfaction, like freshly cut tulips in a crystal vase on my kitchen table.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


"Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties."
~Helen Keller 

***
Wars on Kinkade series by
Jeff Bennett

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Time for Ham

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

2013 marks the fifth anniversary of my blog "Madrona Grove".  In a moment of reflection I found much to be thankful for, and did not need to look far to find faces of many good friends who have blessed my personal timeline.  Life is a journey, always better with company.  So to follow a MG tradition I'm posting my Ham blog.  Posted every holiday for about four years now, this little TRUE story shows up bringing with it a reminder of how important tradition is, but that knowing WHY we do what we do is just as important as the performance.

The boys, oh, I mean the SPLaws office staff, and I are working on our Christmas video card that will post here soon.  Please keep an eye out for it.  Until then keep warm, be happy... and leave the ends ON!  ~SPL

*****
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 always 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!”

Lesson:
It’s good to know WHY you do what you do, 
so that you don’t waste any ham.
Happy Christmas! 



***

Friday, December 6, 2013

Poetry: Table

Salt on the skin
Sweat dried in the cool air
We lay across the table cloth
a checkered gray and white sky
The meal: stars and atmosphere
set on a plate glazed
in a blue so dark 
it doesn't end
Our neighbors no longer 
Robin or worm
but  nebula and moon

Sagittarius contains several well-known nebulae, including the
The Omega Nebula, also known as the Horseshoe or Swan Nebula.


***


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cast Iron

While sitting around the Thanksgiving table at my brother's house this year, I thought about this blog post from 2010.   Seeing these two pans on the counter, well seasoned and ready for action, was like greeting an old family member.
"Cast Iron" is one of my favorite stories, hope you enjoy it.  
Hope you had a warm Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah!
-Shannon


...Living with family members also tends to bring up some nostalgic feelings. During my first morning at my brother’s house, walking into his kitchen, my eyes immediately noticed the two beautiful cast iron skillets sitting inside of one another on his stove. They were black, bumpy and well seasoned. Many of my family members keep well seasoned cast iron skillets in their kitchens. Seeing the skillets reminded me of a evening from my childhood. Sitting on a kitchen stool watching “the adults” clean up after Thanksgiving dinner, talking and joking with each other in good holiday merriment. However, when it came time to season the cast iron the conversation got heated:

“It's OK to use a little hot water and soap to clean it now and then. Sometimes I give mine a salt n’ herb rub with some cooking oil.”

“NO! Water should never touch the skillet. Rubbed with olive oil on a paper towel while it’s still hot, inside and out. That is all it needs!”

“I use only bacon grease to season my skillets. It’s the only way. Sometimes I’ll heat up water in the pan while it’s still on the stove to get off any stubborn stuck-ons before I rub ‘em.”

Because it was my Aunt J's kitchen the skillets were seasoned per her method: an olive oil rub with a paper towel.

Cast iron skillets have several attributes that have caused them to be a favorite in many home and professional kitchens. When properly seasoned and maintained they have a natural non-stick coating, enhance the flavor of the food and last over a hundred years. It’s not too uncommon to find them in antique stores, although smart buyers snatch them up quickly. Talking with the owner of the store and asking to be on a call back list if a skillet comes in is one way to insure you get one.

For the past three weeks I've used his skillets to make many different dishes: scrambled eggs, beef stir fry, and caramelizing garlic and onions for spaghetti. “Man I love this skillet!” I thought to myself. However, I never purchased my own skillet. While wondering WHY I never purchased one, and how awesome these pans are, it hit me- people are seasoned skillets. You can’t deny the fact that life does season us up.

Life experiences, good and bad, have seasoned my mind and spirit.  So when the trials of life come I’m able to saute them up, processing them properly: the bad “stuck-ons” no longer "sticking" to my consciousness, following me around like a constant reminder of failure or shortcomings, and the good left over "flavor" of life sinks into the pores of my very being. How each of my relative’s have a custom way of seasoning their cookware, so do we season our hearts and minds. No matter what process we use, preventing RUST is the main purpose of our efforts. Rust, given sufficient time, oxygen and water, will convert any iron mass and disintegrate it. The toughest of metals, iron and steel, can get corroded. Rust in our heart can make us cold and callus.

During this time of transition I will try to keep myself “well seasoned”. Perhaps that means taking a good walk, having some quiet time with a book, or attending a play. Wiping off the day’s events with a good olive oil rub, preparing my mind for what’s to come.

***