Friday, October 2, 2015

Stories of Extinction

I receive an email newsletter from City Lights Bookstore with announcements of new  books. This is one I think I'd like and hopefully tons of people will read. While many of us older people think about the past, I think about  the future of this planet and who will care for it.

Paul R. Ehrlich says:There's not the slightest question in anybody's mind of why we're facing an extinction crisis, both of populations and of species, and that's human activities. It's not extinction of humans, it's humans forcing birds and mammals to extinction.The whole idea is to introduce people to what we're losing. The average person on Wall Street has never seen a natural ecosystem or, say, the animals on the plains of Africa, and can't really picture what's going on. 

Paul R. Ehrlich: Stories of Extinction

Paul R. Ehrlich is the Bing Professor of Population Studies and the president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Lunar Eclipse Tonight - Will I see it?


Tonight I hope to go somewhere I can see the lunar eclipse. With all the trees around my house, I can't see the moon until it is straight overhead. In south Georgia where I used to live, the land was flat and I could just walk a little way to an open pasture, lie on a blanket and see all of the sky from east to west. Here, I will drive to the lake, park up on the dam level, and see it, I'm sure.

Life in the mountains is much different from life on my beloved farm where I grew up. I don't remember hardship as a child although we had little money. I had my sister to play with every day and my sweet and loving mother always near. I didn't miss what I didn't know others had, like fancy dolls or toys. I used my imagination, as did my sister, Gay. We played farm using Daddy's tobacco bags with their string ties as wagons for our horses which were Daddy's empty match boxes. Sometimes we played farm under the big oak tree. I would be the horse pulling the plow (a long tooth rake) while Gay handled the reins, a long hay string that reached from my mouth to her hands. 

When I think about playing farm, I realize that was what we saw day in and day out--my father and my brothers working on the farm. When we weren't playing farm, we played with my sister June's cosmetic bottles and her high heel shoes. The bottles were all sizes, and they made fine families of grown ups with children. The bottles fit into the shiny shoes, and we pretended the family was going for a ride in the car.

The two of us lived in our imagination

When we went to bed at night, we composed stories in our head until we fell asleep. I learned in later years that my father did the same thing. He read western novels by  Louis L'Amour. Before he fell asleep, he made up his own western stories. I wish he had written them down. I'd love to know what he thought about. 

Tonight's Moon
When I go out tonight to see the moon, I'll think about all the moons I've seen in my life, who I was with when I gazed up at the night, where I was at the time and why I remember them. We remember things for a reason. If there is no reason, we don't remember. Maybe I'll take a notepad and jot down my thoughts as I watch what happens in the sky.

Do you have any moon-watching memories? I hope you will share them in the comments. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

September is Suicide Awareness Month

Depression is a disease, not a weakness, and suicide is its tragic consequence. 
Having come from a family in which depression lurks, I can recognize most of the symptoms. 

My father became depressed when he was in his early forties, about the time my little sister was born. Throughout my life and hers, we knew a father totally different from the man my older brothers and older sister had known. He worked hard every day on the farm. He paid his bills. He managed to overcome physical illness most of the time and lived a quiet life. But depression changed him, and he was not the happy man who teased and played ball with my older siblings. His emotions were always right on the surface. The slightest little thing could make him lose his temper. 

As a result, my little sister and I stayed as far from him as we could, not knowing when he would blow up. Mother was the calm presence in our lives, the only one who could settle him down. Looking back, I think his depression caused him to worry abut everything. He would not go anywhere except to the doctor. He voluntarily gave up the keys to his truck when he didn't feel capable of driving. He did enjoy watching sports on TV. Perhaps that was his escape from reality. And he planted and harvested a big garden, which seemed to bring him joy.

As far as I know, my father never thought about taking his own life, although he had a beloved family member who did. Mother said my father almost had a “nervous breakdown” in the 1950s, which was what people said when someone became so emotionally distraught they could not function. 

Looking back, we are fortunate that he did not give up on himself and us. I give my mother and my older brother much of the credit for pulling him through those dark days. 

Suicide is no stranger to me. My first experience with someone taking their own life was when I was sixteen years old. A teenage girl I had seen many times at the local skating rink, killed herself with a shotgun. No one ever explained it. That shook me to the core. She had everything she could have wanted—money, looks, prestige, and a nice family. At least that is what outsiders saw. Who knows what went on behind that family’s doors?  (see poem below)

I was older when the suicide of a dear friend broke my heart and left me feeling terrific guilt. She and I rode horses together when we were kids, and we had stayed in contact. She had been the happiest, devil-may-care kind of girl, bordering on being a rebel, but not quite. Although we lived distances from each other over the years, we always kept in touch and loved to be together. When she visited, we sat up till the wee hours discussing everything from books, to plays, to religion and relationships.

I knew she fought demons even when she seemed happily married to her high school sweetheart. Once she told me she had flown to NYC to see a doctor she hoped could help her. But she was disappointed when she did not get better.

She continued to fight those awful feelings as much as possible. She sought counseling several times and was given prescription drugs. Like many with depression, she turned to alcohol to blot out the desperation. Nightmares, fears she could not explain to me, left her asking questions about an afterlife. I had no idea how the mental anguish stripped her of energy, of happiness, of the desire to get out of bed each morning.

Her husband asked for a divorce after twenty years of marriage. That must have been the tipping point. Her health spiraled down. She found a job in a factory where she stood all day and used her arthritic hands. They swelled so badly and hurt so much, she came home each day and buried them in a pan of ice. Her mental and physical illness drove her to withdraw into a shell, isolated from friends and family.

My only contact with her at the time was by telephone, and often she didn’t answer the phone. Although I was concerned about my friend, I had no idea her situation had become so hopeless. When I heard she had taken her life, I cried for days wondering if I could have helped. I think that is what everyone does when this kind of tragedy happens. 

In the poem below you will recognize the first girl I mentioned above.

Anne’s One Flaw

Her mother heard it from the kitchen.
Her brother heard it above the radio
playing in his room.

The night before, she skated at the roller rink,
blond hair flying 'round her shoulders,
tanned legs clad in short white shorts.

She was sixteen; a cheerleader, and a perfect student.
All American girl with eternal promise.
Thomas loved her and he thought she loved him, too.

She dressed in a powder blue blouse
and navy skirt for their seven-thirty date.
She combed and curled her shiny hair,
and pinked her lovely lips.

Then she sat down upon her bed,
and pulled the trigger on the gun that splattered red
her white bedspread, and left her family stunned.

This poem was first published in Wild Goose Poetry Review

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Friday and Saturday, full of fun for me

This weekend has been full and fun for me. Friday evening I had the great pleasure of being a featured reader at Writers’ Night Out, hostedby Karen Holmes, in Blairsville, GA. We had an enthusiastic crowd of people including some students from Young Harris College.

On the same program with me was Scott Owens, a favorite poetand teacher in our area. He has 12 or 13 books out now and all of them are big hits. His reading last night brought bursts of loud and long applause.

For my reading, I included a couple of poems at the beginning, one of which is in my poetry chapbook, Now Might as Well be Then, published by Finishing Line Press. Steve Harvey, essayist and memoirist, whom I admire, said he particularly like the poem about the tractor. In the book it is titled Clearing New Ground. I changed a few words for the reading, making the poem more powerful, I think.

The surprise of the evening was the short story I read. It is a humorous piece about a young man who came to work at the dairy barn early one morning hung over with a pounding headache. I have not submitted this story for publication, but many people suggested I should. I might send it out and see if it finds a home. The audience found it funny. I don’t think many people expect my writing to be humorous, but several of my short stories are funny.

This morning Scott taught poetry at Writers Studio. He gave us ideas of where we find poetry, how to find poetry and when to write. We had a few short writing exercises that were helpful. I think everyone who knows him loves Scott Owens. At least in my area they do. I hear nothing but compliments for him from those who attend his readings and his classes.

Scott told me he is trying to get his popular online journal, Wild Goose Poetry Review, running again, but he is extremely busy with Taste Full Beans Coffee Shop in Hickory and teaching three classes each day. I expect him and his wife to become even busier now that a post on Facebook about their generosity has been shared hundreds of times and the hits keep coming. We all want Wild Goose to continue to publish the great quality poetry it has in the past.

After the class today, I took a long nap to be ready for my night out with the girls. A dear writer friend treated me to dinner, and another friend joined us at the Copper Door, one of the finest restaurants anywhere. We three went over to the Peacock Playhouse later to see the Songwriters in Concert. I’ll save that for another post.

I could feel Fall in the air today although it was still humid. A crisp breeze swept over my deck and I wanted to sit outside and enjoy it. Sunny and Smokie  like the weather, running in and out.  They can make me smile every time I look at them.

I hope you had a good day wherever you are and thank you for reading this blog. If you aren’t a subscriber, please sign up on the sidebar. It is free, and you will receive in your Inbox each new post I write. I love reading  your comments, so please tell me what you think.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Two Buttermilks for Pamela

We all need connection with other people. Listening to Pope Francis talking to children who live in difficult situations, some homeless, some who have lost parents, I was struck with his emphasis on staying connected with others.

I thought about the many elderly or ill people who are home bound or have no family near. Often their sons or daughters are busy with their own lives, their children, and don't seem to have time to visit. Popping a head in the door to say, "Are you all right?" is not a visit. 

After my mother, age 70, recovered from an aneurysm that left her unable to drive and with no short term memory, she still enjoyed her children's visits. Some found it hard to spend time with her because of her loss of memory. I was fortunate that she and I could talk and we loved being together. My sister, Gay, and I often took Mother to the Dairy Queen where she ordered a banana split. She could not eat it all, but it was her favorite and, even though we reminded her that she could not eat all of it, she insisted the banana split was what she wanted. 

My mother in blue and her sister. They had the same birthday, two years apart
The last ten years of my mother's life had a large gap where something was missing. Her brain swelled from the hemorrhage that took place in her artery. She almost died. 

When she lived, to the surprise of her doctors, we took her home and began to program her brain with pictures and tales that eventually brought her back to a place where she knew our names and recognized her home. We had to tell her that her parents and many of her siblings were dead. It broke my heart when she cried. She lived those losses all over again because she didn't remember their passing. 

Her memory of her childhood and even early marriage was vivid, so we talked about what she could tell me. Because I am curious and ask questions, I heard all of her stories. She told me about the dance parties in the community each Saturday night when she was young. 

"They rolled up the rug and pushed the chairs back against the wall," Mother said. I could see the joy in her eyes when she remembered those happy times. She smiled as she talked. "Coy would walk me to the dance, but he wouldn't dance with me. It was fine with me. I had plenty of boys who asked and I danced until the party ended. Then, Coy walked me to my house. If we stayed on the front porch too long, Mama let us know."

Coy was my father so I knew, even though he didn't dance, they fell in love. He asked her to marry him when she was eighteen. 

Mother knew the history of my father's family as well as she knew her own.  I learned about my aunts and uncles on both sides. She told me about her little brother who died, and how her mother became very protective of her next son, my uncle Rudolph. The entire family adored Rudy and I understood why. When Mother was in Intensive Care and didn't know anyone, he came to the hospital and visited her often. I can still see him, tall and thin, a slight smile on his face, standing beside her bed feeding her like she was a baby. She didn't know his name, but she knew she loved him and he loved her. I could tell by the trusting way she looked up at him as he spooned soup into her mouth. 

I was fortunate to come from loving family and to know that being connected to others is healthy and important to living a long life. For several years Barry and I delivered Meals on Wheels to men and women living alone here in the mountains. Some of them could no longer cook for themselves and the hot meal they received every day gave them nutrition they might not have received  if left on their own. However, I think the most important part of delivering those meals was going inside, giving a hug, speaking with them and letting them know someone cared. I think we had a few on our route who saw no one all day other than the people who delivered the meals. 

Just that connection brightened their days. All the television in the world cannot replace a human touch and a human voice. Even telephone calls cannot replace the visit of someone who cares. 

I wrote a poem about one of the women we saw each month. She was ninety and still able to live alone. I often think about Pamela. You can find that poem here. 

If you have the time and are able, delivering Meals on Wheels in your community is a very worthwhile program.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Where Did My Time Go?

Today I made a priority list

I have a busy schedule this month and this long weekend, I thought, would be great to "get my ducks in a row."
Today I would work on my lesson plans for my weekly classes. But first I had to clean up my kitchen. I had left it quite messy after cooking last evening. And I always feel better when my kitchen is clean and neat. 

After all that work, (I make such a mess when I cook). I had to sit down so I sat down to the computer and checked my email. That led me to Facebook. Two hours later I realized it was time for lunch. After lunch I watched a TV show I had recorded with Oprah and Dr. Wayne Dyer. (Gosh he was young then, but she looked even younger, and thin.)

By this time it was late afternoon and rain sounded loud in the trees. I walked outside and took a deep breath. The cool air and the falling rain called me to sit outside for awhile. I've not sat on my lovely deck all summer. I wrote in my journal, read the newspaper and thought about happy times I'd shared there with Barry. Before long, it was getting dark and time to come inside. 

I feel I am in a tree house when I am up on my deck. 

So, my day had slipped away from me and my lesson plans had not been done, my two readings for September had not been planned, and several phone calls I had planned to make did not happen. 

When others were going to bed, I sat down at my computer and completed a blog post for Writers Circle and now for Writing Life Stories. 

But I will spend tomorrow printing handouts and outlining my class work. I read something I had written in my journal many years ago. I was wishing for more time in the day, just a few hours tacked on to the 24. Back then I had far more claiming my time than I do now, but I got it done. 

This week I will babysit Sunny and Smokie, the cutest little dogs in the world. I will host Coffee with the Poets and Writers on Wednesday. I will host Scott Owens, poet and teacher, Friday night and Saturday morning when he teaches at my studio. I will read with him at Writers' Night Out on Friday evening. 

Saturday night I hope I am not too tired to go to the Songwriters' Concert here in Hayesville. I've been trying to make one of them all summer. 

Now that I think about all this, maybe I should go to bed right now and store up some rest. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Teaching Adults How to Leave a Written Legacy

About ten years ago when I began seriously teaching mature adults to write their life stories, I had been invited to a program called EAGLE held at Nacoochee Methodist Church in Sautee-Nacoochee, Georgia. Every Thursday classes in painting, fly-tying, chair caning, photography and other crafts are taught by volunteer instructors. My friends, Twila and Harvey asked if I’d like to teach a writing class for EAGLE.  It is nearly an hour’s drive over the mountains to reach the church where the members and the community have created an excellent program for retired adults and others who are free to attend day-classes.

A similar program has flourished at the Union County Methodist Church in Blairsville, GA where I have  attended as a student and as a teacher. This program is called OASIS. All those letters stand for words, but they all mean come and pay a small fee to take a one or two hour class, have lunch with friends, and enjoy an enlightening program after lunchI don’t know who starts these kinds of opportunities in their communities, but I think this is one of the best ways churches can serve people.

My first class at the Nacoochee Church surprised me with the large number of students. Most of them were willing to work on writing at home and share it with us the next week. We spent our time on quality of the content, getting thoughts on paper, because none of them had done any writing of this sort. My purpose was to help them write their true stories so that family would want to read them. I asked them to write as if they were writing fiction, a short story or a small book. We discussed what kept them reading a novel or short story. The stories were simple with a beginning, middle and end. They caught on quickly to use active verbs and descriptive verbs to provide the reader an image.

After eight weeks of classes, several of the students were excited to read at the closing ceremony. I was proud when several in the audience came to me and said they wanted to sign up for the next writing class.

Moving on to teach closer to home

When gasoline prices rose up and up, I could not continue to drive so far and looked to teach closer to home. Nancy Simpson, resident writer at the John C. Campbell Folk School at the time, asked me to substitute for a writer who could not teach her scheduled weekend class at JCCFS. I was thrilled. After fifteen years of taking writing classes at this wonderful legendary place, I was going to teach there.

That weekend class led to week-long classes nearly every year for six years. Many of my students there have become dear friends whom I see and stay in contact with wherever they live in this country. They know they can ask me for advice, or ask me to connect them with writers or editors who can help them. They share their successes with me and I joy in their excitement.

Now I teach once a week at Tri-County Community College in Cherokee County about twenty miles from my home. I will begin a new course on Tuesday, September 1, at six o’clock in the evening. I teach two-hour classes and the courses last for four weeks. 
Ginny and Nadine were students in my first class at Tri-County College in 2008. Now we are great friends.

Again, these are beginning writers who are not looking to write a bestseller, but who want to write a lasting legacy for their families. My goal is to help them make their writing entertaining as well as informative. No one wants to waste time writing work that no one finds interesting.

I encourage my students to tell the most interesting stories about their lives, not lay out the daily facts of where they lived, attended school, and games they played. The writer must include the facts within a narrative that moves along and holds the reader's interest.

I look forward to next week when we begin a new class with some seasoned writers from earlier classes and new people who will begin telling their unique stories for future generations.

Behind Orchard House at Folk School

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Joan L. Cannon - Poem

I am fortunate to have made a friend some years ago when I first put up the NCWN-West blog,  A wonderful writer and interesting woman contacted me. She lived in Morganton, NC near where I vacationed a while ago. I could tell she felt isolated living in a retirement community not knowing many writers. She asked if she could join NCWN-West. I think she was already a member of the North Carolina Writer's Network. I had to tell her she did not live in one of the NC counties that made up the region included in the NCWN-West Program. But I put her name on my Email list and sent her the same information I sent to those who lived in the nine counties SW of Asheville. 
Over the years Joan and I have become friends although we have never met face to face. Not too long after my husband passed away, Joan lost her beloved. Now she has moved back up north to be near her children. 

Recently someone asked Joan if she missed North Carolina. She wrote this poem in response and shared it with me. It is published here with her permission.

by Joan Cannon

If I wrote a poem about a place I miss
I fear it would lead to empty rooms
whose doors are closed and to qualms
about what a reader might see behind them.

What might I?

Outsize and distant whale backs of blue and purple and grey
that show the hand of majesty and time and decay
—make outsize demands on the viewer’s humility,
they clutch the throat and pull a smile as much as a sigh.
It’s good for the soul to feel so small.

We used to drive to feel the surge of exotic grandeur
that brought a peculiar joy—the kind that makes one sad for the fact that it was there we found a fresh era
with energy to thrill to what was new to us,
that thrust discoveries at us once again.

Horizons so immense beckon with merciless guile
as if we might somehow make them ours—
we who knew the other end of such a monster
from its tail of almost human scale.
The Blue Ridge perhaps dwindles into the Berkshires
 I now find gently enfolding. Do I miss those views?

A little.

In that place, the last of our matchless road
was ended. We’d had what should have been time enough—
not unlike the months of over half a century before—
like a delayed honeymoon at the end instead of the beginning.

Yes, I’d go there again...
only if I were in the right company.

Joan L. Cannon

Joan L. Cannon is a retired teacher, retail manager and author of two novels in paperback Settling and Maiden Run , a collection of short stories called Peripheral Vision, and her latest, a collection of poetry, My Mind Is Made of Crumbs, all available from Amazon and on order from independent booksellers.

Monday, August 24, 2015

My Home Town in pictures

Although many things have changed in my hometown, Albany, Georgia, since I lived there, Betty Rehberg has photographed some of what has not changed and what is beautiful. 

I grew up on a farm where every morning brought sights and sounds of nature. Beside our house was a giant old Oak tree and in the backyard was a China-berry tree under which we played and in which I climbed. Behind the barn grew a pecan tree that covered the ground each fall with nuts. Squirrels and birds of all kinds lived in the trees. 

The livestock never hurt for water. Three ponds provided cool places for the cows to wade out and drink. The small lakes were surrounded by trees that drooped limbs over the banks when I was a kid. Many of those trees were May Haw trees that provided little tart red berries we gathered for Mother to make jelly. 

In the video you will see the bridge where my school bus crossed the Flint River on the way to the school I attended. We could see the train trestle from the bridge. 

Also in the video are pictures of the waterfront where, after I left, a lovely area was built so that visitors can walk and sit to enjoy that powerful river. She shows us thee statue of Ray Charles and his piano. You see, Ray Charles was born in Albany one night when his mother was passing through town. I doubt he ever spent a day there until he came back as a man and sang at our Civic Center. 

We had several famous people who did live in Albany. Ray Stevens, the singer, went to Albany High School when I was there. A famous baseball player, Ray Knight, lives in my hometown and his wife, a famous golfer lived there also. 

In this video, I saw the old State Theater where my brother, Hal, was supposed to pick up his two little sisters after his date one night. But Hal dropped us off and forgot about us. When he got home late that night without us, Mother sent him back to town. The manager had come out and found us huddled together, sitting on the curb. We told him we were waiting for our brother to pick us up. So, he turned off the lights and went home. Hal found us there in the dim glow of a street light in front of the movie house. I don't think Mother ever trusted Hal to bring home the babies after that night. 

I saw pictures of Lake Worth where Barry took me on a boat ride on our first date. I'll never forget the moss covered trees and the quiet water with sounds of frogs calling out as dusk fell. 

The music in the video is perfect -- all about home. I don't plan to live in Albany again. I love it here in the mountains, but this glimpse of my hometown brought tears to my eyes. When I go down there again, I will look at it with different eyes. I will look for the beauty, the history and the good memories. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sugar Top - a fine place to spend a few days

Friday afternoon, view from our condo at SugarTop

Today, August 19, is  our last vacation day before we leave for home. Gay and I have had the most wonderful relaxing week at Sugar Top Resort on the tip top of a mountain ridge in the High Country of North Carolina. Although we have had much rain, we didn't care. We read, rested and watched some TV. We also visited with friends who have a large mountain house near Boone, NC.

I didn't realize how much I needed to get away until I had been here a day. Our condo is rented by owner and he fulfilled my request for a place cleaned with only vinegar and water and no use of air fresheners. I didn't think to bring my own linens, so I had to go out and buy sheets, towel and wash cloth. The linens that were on my bed had been washed and dried with scented detergent and dryer sheets.

We opened the doors and windows when we arrived, turned on some fans, and we have been very comfortable. The kitchen is furnished well, but we did little cooking. Mostly breakfasts. Banner Elk, the nearest town has many good restaurants and nearby grocery stores.

Sugar Top sits on a ridge and is considered an eyesore because you can see if from any direction and it breaks up the beauty of the mountains. I would hate for someone to build this huge place on top of a mountain in Clay County where I live. After the resort was being  built, the NC legislature passed a law preventing anyone else building on top of the ridges. But it was too late to  stop the building of Sugar Top.

In spite of all the controversy surrounding the resort in the beginning, I am happy to have found this very reasonable condo on VRBO. We are on the seventh floor with easy access by elevator. No stairs to climb. My bedroom has a  king size bed, private bathroom, flat screen TV and double windows opening to the beautiful long range views. We overlook a ski slope, some smaller rental units and at night the lights from Banner Elk, far down the way, shine like a Christmas village. I can imagine how fantastic it must be when snow covers the ground.

The staff has been nice to deal with, but it would be great to have had someone help bring up our luggage. Gay says we don't need help, and she handles it very well. She and I are so  compatible that sharing a place with her took me  back in time. We shared a bedroom growing up from as far back as I can remember and for a year in college. On some days here we didn't get dressed until late afternoon when we went out to eat. I almost  hate to go home. One afternoon I used the  heated pool for exercise. No one else was there and I loved that experience also.

The past two days have been extremely foggy. At times we can't see the ground from our deck. We are enclosed in a cloud, set off from all the world, like being in a floating apartment high above the earth. The silence is comforting and leads to thinking about all I am so grateful for in my life.

I also thought about my future. I will be cutting back on classes at Writers Circle next year. I plan to only hold three workshops at my studio. I hope that NCWN West will bring in some good instructors to teach in our rural area.

I will be home by the time you read this post. Thanks for reading my blog. I love to hear from you.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Visit our Writers Circle page at City Lights

I am so happy to be affiliated with City Lights Books in Sylva, NC. This is one of the best Independent book stores anywhere. Chris Wilcox and his staff can help you with anything you need and they carry many local authors, meaning North Carolina writers and poets. 

Chris gives me a page on his site for our Writers Circle classes.

Check it out and while you are there, look at the books - real books with pages you can turn and hard covers or soft covers. Look for my poetry book: Now Might as Well be Then, published by Finishing Line Press.  On the sidebar is a place to search for the title.
You can order from Chris just as well as that other big company. 

I was there last Sunday and met my friend, Rebecca, in the bookstore where I had been browsing.
We then went downstairs to the cafe and talked for three hours.

I recently heard that real books are not dead as was predicted. Those of us who love to hold a book in our hands, to mark on the margin of books we keep, to pick up that book many times and read parts of it after we have read it through, spoke loudly and independent book stores are not going to be obsolete after all.

But we need to support them if we want to keep them.
Visit City Lights either online or in person. You will be happy you did.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Everybody Needs a Good Friend

Here it is Sunday again.
The weekend passed so quickly I hardly knew it. One of the best parts of this weekend was a visit with a former student of mine who is now one of my dearest friends. We both agreed we could have talked for many more hours if we had the time even though we don't see each other often.

Those are the friends we cling to in our lives and if we are lucky we never let them go. In my youth, I did not make the effort to hold on to friends, even those I thought about often, and I have some regrets about that. I can't change the past, but I do make a big effort to keep in touch with people I meet now, people who hit a note with me that resonates even when they are not near.

When we are bombarded with all the "bad news" of the world, and we might think that everyone is an enemy, if we are open to meeting others and listening to them, we see a different world. As my friend, Rebecca, and I discussed on Saturday, sometimes people are suspicious of generosity from others. They are skeptical of someone who is kind or giving. They wonder, "What does she want from me?"

I have experienced that reaction from writers when I reached out to them to help them promote their books or write an article about them. I've met some types who were so suspicious they refused my offer. As my personality type is one who doesn't get angry but feels pity for those people, I immediately wonder why they think that way. Could it be that their self-esteem is low and they can't imagine anyone wanting to do something for them without some payback?

Most writers I meet have many of the same issues with themselves as I do. We beat up on ourselves because we are not disciplined enough to write everyday. We don't submit our work. We never think it is ready to send out. We say we don't have time for our passion but will spend our time cleaning house, doing laundry and all the things we hate to do, while avoiding putting ourselves in a chair and picking up a pen or hitting the keyboard. 

We are not bad, lazy, or worthless people, and we need community with other writers to help us see that we all have similar problems. We have our needs that might not be exactly like those of others, but it helps to vent with fellow writers. 

So many of my good friends are students who took my classes in the past 8 years. In my classes we write about ourselves, share our stories and bond in a lasting way. Sometimes we cry or laugh out loud, but that is okay, too.  

Many of my friends are women I met when I took my first writing classes. For twenty years I have shared my sadness, my happiness, my successes and my failures with my fellow writers in my literary community. Some of my friends I've met through affiliation with North Carolina Writers' Network West. They don't live close to me, but we keep in touch. 

One of the highlights of this weekend was hearing the voice of a former student of mine, Staci Bell, as she called to tell me a poem and a flash fiction piece she has been wanting to place were both accepted for publication. One is for an anthology about wolves.

I am as happy for her as I would be if it were my writing that had been accepted. I know that feeling when a stranger reads your work and really likes it. When they like it well enough to publish it in a book or magazine to be read by many people, it feels like seeing your name up on a marquee on Broadway, especially when you have not had that before. 

Friends come in many ways and at any time. You never know how a person can influence your life, can help you through hard times, will need your help one day, and how much you can come to love them. Be generous to others, and they will surprise you with their own caring. 

My friends give to others in whatever way they can. 
My neighbor cooks once a week for a free noonday meal for those who need fellowship and nutrition for their bodies. Another friend, in her eighties, says cooking for others is her ministry. (To minister: to give service, care or aid; attend, as to wants or necessities.)

Maybe we can all ask ourselves what is our ministry to others? We don't have to go to church or have a calling from God to minister. 

I saw a little boy on Sunday Morning who lost his mother recently. He gives out tiny little toys to people on the street to see them smile. He just wants to make people smile and not be sad. We never know when the smallest thing can make a difference.(This story reminds me of the Little Drummer Boy)

My friends and other kind people give me hope that this world is much better than the TV news would have us believe
What do you think? Is human kind as bad as what is seen on television?  Do you think our parents thought the world was in deep trouble and feared for their children's future?