this post is a few days late but here goes

I decided a few days ago to blog about friendship but wasn’t sure what to say about it.  It is a fac that times are leaner no than they have been in quite a while no matter where you live.  People are experiencing hardships they never expected to.  Sometimes it feels like the very ground under your feet is no longer stable, and I know from experience that going through things like this can feel very isolating and frightening.  Sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner with my family last night a thought struck me, in times of uncertainty it is easy to withdraw into oneself but as a friend of mine told me recently, “a problem shared is a problem halved.”

Hold tight to your friendships in uncertain times no matter the distance between you.  Friendship is the glue that keeps sanity intact, and sometimes, it’s the only good thing anybody has got going for them.  Friendship is the warm blanket we wrap around ourselves amidst the bitter coldness that life sometimes throws our way.

As the ink of my proverbial pen dries I say one last thing: keep in contact with those you call friend, losing a frien is losing a part of yourself.

something bright in the cold winter gray


On a cold day in November I found that which I will treasure.  The sky was a bright bright blue, bluer than ice.  The sunlight that day was weak and almost sheepish in its light, still I had thought to go for a walk.  The snow crunched under my feet like powdered diamonds.  The trees which had once seemed warm and friendly now appear downright hostile and scary.

In the distance I see a small house with smoke trailing slowly out of the chimney top. I walk around to one of the windows with its glazing of frost overlaying the pane and peer inside. The small one-room cabin is deserted.  On one arm of the thread bare couch a bright red wool blanket lies folded.  There is a small table playing at Sentinel in the middle of the room, like the last acolyte devoted to a forgotten faith.  In the corner of the room where wall meets ceiling a lone Weaver spider spins its web trying desperately to survive the winter.  I smile at the spider and wish it well though I doubt it will be there by the end of the month.  There’s something about it though, its web glistening in the sunlight like living frost.  I pray a futile prayer for the spider that it may live to see spring.

Walking around the back of the cabin I find the most unexpected sight.  A small greenhouse half buried under snow. Inside the greenhouse are roses, blue roses as a matter of fact at first I think the roses have turned blue because they have somehow frozen despite the heat of the greenhouse. On further inspection it occurs to me that they really are blue, a blue only a few shades shy of black. Carefully I pick one of the roses, ever mindful of its thorns , or so I thought.The pad of mine from catches the edge of a stray thorn and I immediately put it in my mouth hoping that none of the blood has fallen on to my clothing.  Too late I realize the rose in my hand is now spattered with blood. I look down and nearly drop the fragile flower in my hand.

The flower was indeed changed.  At the tips of the petals there is now the smallest hint of red. My fingers gently skim the flowers surface in what is probably a vain attempt to remove the blood which has altered its unique perfection. To my surprise when I pull my fingers away nothing comes with them.  It’s almost as though the rose had soaked up the blood as soon as it fell.

Back at home I turn the heat up and put the rose clipping in a small flower pot because it is far too cold to plant in the ground outside yet.  Watering it three times a week soon becomes habit and I find myself hoping that this fragile beauty will make it through the winter to spring, I was also still silently cheering for the Weaver spider, the lone inhabitant of the cabin whose greenhouse this amazing flower had come from.

Spring eventually did come around and miraculously the rose made it.  I have watched the roses for years now.  Like the first rose, all of the succeeding generations are blue with red tips. Sometime around
the second year it had been planted in the ground, the roses began to climb.  Now my house is covered with them.  The other odd thing about these roses is that they don’t die in the winter but continue to bloom as though doing otherwise would be admitting defeat.

I went back to the cabin recently. Surprisingly, the Weaver spider or at least one of her daughters is still there.  The couch is still threadbare and the table still stands guard over the room.  There worea few things different though.  The red blanket had been spread across the back of the couch instead of folded this time, and on the little table stood a picture frame of antique silver which contained sepia toned photographs of a man and woman on either side.  There was one last thing that I found on the table  Lying just in front of the frame was a blue rose with red tips.

question… virtual reality is it really that unreal?

Recently a good friend of mine sent me of a photo album as an early Christmas present.  A photo album full of pictures taken in a digital world.  I will treasure these just as much as any of the real life pictures I currently have of people I’ve actually met. Since the photo album is actually only half full (due to the fact that the person making it for me ran out of ink while doing so)there is actually space for me to put in pictures of my own, which I fully intend to do.  Likely this will not be the only photo album of the kind that I eventually have.  So it is the question: if you become emotionally attached to people who live very far away but who you’ve never seen(with the possible exception of a still photograph or two) does that make the emotional attachment any less?  Should it?

If these people have listened to your trouble even though it may be one or two in the morning where they’re at without complaint and with nothing but compassion, if they’ve made you laugh to you fell down, if they’ve listened to you cry, scream, and almost curse in a completely different language, stayed up with you till 3 a.m. in the morning when they have to go to work early because you are sick, does that make them any different or less important than the friends you have that just happened to be geographically closer to you?

People have said that virtual reality worlds are just games and while virtual reality does allow you to do and be things that you may not have ever considered and to some extent can allow you to escape from the cares of the day to day world I have discovered that through my own experiences that they can strip you of your defenses just as easily as it can provide you with them. As strange as this may sound to some, since entering the virtual reality universe I’ve had to face some truths about myself because of things which transpired there which I otherwise may not have realized for a very long time if at all.

I have learned that while you can build walls and shields to keep the world at bayit is far scarier to dismantle them and let people in and let them get to know the person you are at the center of your being , the person that most of the world never sees and that you may only be peripherally aware of your self to begin with.  It’s scary as hell and I never expected it to happen to me in a million year but I find that it has for good or ill I’m not sure of yet.

“Virtual reality game” is a misnomer I believe.  Better to say “alternates universe” because if you participate for very long in some wa it ceases to be a game, the people and places involved become a part of you whether you wish them to or not. Though I haven’t been asked for it yet if a friend told me that they were considering joining a virtual community this would be my advice to them: get ready to find out things about yourself you never knew because I guarantee you you will.

and now for something completely different………….

So I said I’d be continuing the essays on letter writing and I will but right now I’m just mad.    Insurance is supposedly meant to help people not go into debt taking care of their families.    So I thought at least. I should know better than to assume that a business has altruistic motives behind anything it does.    Maybe I had too much faith in humanity still, I’m not sure.

I’m sure by now you’re thinking:”What on Earth is this girl talking about?”   I have listened to Public Radio from a very young age and this morning they featured a story which is still sending chills up my spine several hours later.   The reporter was interviewing the families of children diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis who for various reasons were now faced with the specter of having to pay for their child’s life  preserving medications and treatments out of pocket because they no longer qualify for state medical coverage.

One of the children is on the brink of having a feeding tube that she’s had most of her life removed.   Good news, right?    Wrong.   That feeding tube is all that’s keeping her on state insurance, when she loses it her parents will have to pay her medical expenses.   Basically her family is being punished because she’s making progress.   In my mind that is beyond not fair.   The other family has already been removed from the insurance due to the fact that the little girl’s father recently got a raise.  Because of having to pay for her medicine they are behind on their house payments and her dad is working three jobs.   A sympathetic social worker recently told them that the only sure way to be reinstated into the program was if the parents legally seperated and the family was living off the mother’s income alone.

I’m not sure the people in charge of state health care understand something: these children WILL DIE without their medicines. Perhaps they agree with someone who once said of those less fortunate than himself “let them die, it will decrease the surplus population.”    As for myself I have but one thing to say to those who view children as acceptable collateral damage; may you live in interesting times

Letters:an introduction to a series

Even in this world of instant messages, cell phone text messages, and email sent in the blink of an eye nothing beats a good old fashioned  pen and ink letter. So what is it that makes a handwritten letter special and unique? Over the next few weeks  I intend to try to address that question with answers taken from an informal survey which I’m conducting.

For my part I think letters are windows into the soul. Typed letters simply don’t have the same feel. Handwriting somehow makes the person who wrote it more immediate and solid to the person reading it.  If handwriting is as distinctive as fingerprints then letters are like two people standing  on opposite sides of a window with one hand pressed to the glass in the exact same spot, almost able to touch except for the seemingly minute distance which separates them.

Now I do not mean to imply that typed letters can’t have that same effect, it’s just a bit different.  I have felt almost that same effect and all of my letters have to be typed.  It’s almost as though most people have allowed technology to steal their individuality,sap their creativity away from them. But that is just the opinion of one person

blankets

The weather doesn’t look promising.    It was only forty five degrees today and the sun is going down now. It has been threatening to snow all day and as the sun’s last rays paint the sky deepest purple the first flake skitters across her cheek.    She draws her knees up to her chin and leans back against the tree to wait.   Her eyes fly open when she hears a twig snap behind her. Her left hand drops from her knees to rest against her boot.    A soft chuckle brushes the back of her neck and a warm weight settles across her shoulders. “None of that now, it’s just me.”

Almost before she knew it she was in his arms, a cup of mulled cider poured from a thermos to warm her hands.   “What are you doing out here, the house is a lot warmer, I would’ve brought you outside when I got here.”  She laughed as she reached up to brush the snow out of his hair,” I didn’t want to miss the first snowflake, so I waited, besides I wanted to surprise you.” His arms tightened around her, “You certainly do that often enough.”

They sat there the rest of the night, talking, drinking cider, and watching the snow fall.   Despite the fact that he wasn’t usually a morning person, he nudged her awake in enough time to watch the sun come up before carrying her back inside to her bed. “I have to go now dear but I’ll leave something for you to keep warm with.”

She squinted against the sunlight invading her room, “Of course I have to wake up I always do when its a nice one.”  She rolled over to back to sleep and  froze    She was curled up under a heavy red wool blanket, the ends of which had been tucked securely underneath her feet.   It smelled of snow, cider, and…no way.   She sat up on the edge of the bed and stared. Her black boots stood underneath the bed, the same ones she wore in the dream….but they were still in the basement.   Weren’t they?    There was a letter on the table beside the bed.

Dear,

You might want ti clean that.    If that’s the knife I think it is it needs it.   Hope the blanket keeps you warm.

Besides the letter there was a small boot knife in a handmade sheath and next to that the gun oil to clean it with.

“Wow” was the only word she could manage

Words

Words are the building blocks of Story.   The words put into a character’s mouth shape the reader’s perception of him or her.   An author would employ a different vocabulary and manner of speaking when writing the character of a male military officer then they would if writing a female civillian.  They are different people dealing with different things in their lives, thus each requires a unique vocabulary all their own. Words have the power to harm or heal, uplift or depress, anger or soothe.

I find it amazing then that the meanings and intents of words can change as quickly as they do.    For example, “gay” doesn’t mean the same thing today that it did fifty years ago.

Words are insubstanial, and once spoken hang in the air for a few seconds before fading away.   If a person is lucky another person who speaks the same language is around to hear him so hopefully his words are not as easily dismissed.    But what if the only person to hear the words is from another country and doesn’t speak the same language? To that person it’s all a bunch of nonsense.

For all of its effect on people the spoken word is the most fragile thing in existence, the meanings can be warped and twisted at will.    The written word is little better off.    What makes words permanent, inescapable?   Ink and paper?    Pages can be torn, the smallest drop of water can make the most eloquent turn of phrase unreadable.   But we can depend on computers, right?   Files get corrupted and hard drives crash without backups every day.   The human brain can be trusted, surely.   Brain damage happens every day to people who had been perfectly normal before, often times a persons’ memory is affected to some extent or another.

So why write?    It has been said that time heals all.   Time is a thief, it takes our memories and fades them.    Our loved ones are changed into different people almost before we know it.   So we write vainly hoping to escape time, to fool ourselves into an illusion of immortality.   We write to ablr to say. “I may die, but that  which I’ve written shall live on,” even though it will decay as well in the end.   From dust we came and to it shall we return, and so too everything we create.   Be mindful of your actions.   You never know who carries the Gift of Story within them, and the one Story always being told is that of Humankind.   If I should be reduced to myth I for one want to be considered one of the good guys in thr end.

If you read this and thoughts on a painting of an unknown girl

This is meant to be a writer’s blog.If you care to read it you will find a little of everything. Stories, poetry, essays and a political rant or two. Constructive criticism and differences of opinion are appreciated and will be treated with respect Things like “I hate this” will be deleted without remorse. you are warmed. Not all my posts  are meant to be read together. Some will be short writing exercises, Stand alone bits of poetry, etc. Read the titles to avoid confusion! Enough  introduction, on with the writing!

The old house is a shambles.   Ivy has grown up around the posts that used to support the railing of the ramp, the top of which has been missing for some time now.   The grass growing  in between the boards tickles my feet as I step warily onto the aging porch.   Not for the time I wonder what I’m doing here.   It was her last wish I remind myself as i enter the house and try unsuccessfully to squash the feeling that I am an intruder in this house and I’m one step shy of being tossed out on my ear.   The first thing I notice as I  walk through this house is a painting.    The young lady looking back at me is strong, determined, almost defiant in her bravery.   Something about her seems oddly familiar.   Some relative of hers, maybe her mother, in which case the determined look makes sense.   Anybody who raised a child with Cerebral Palsy had to be strong.   I’m not sure if I could do it.   I make a mental note to take the portrait down and take it with me when I leave.   The memory of such a strong woman should not be forgotten, left to molder and rot in some derelict.

Hours later I’m sitting in the basement surrounded by the pieces of a woman’s life, reduced to so many knickknacks and printed pages.   The swords and gun oil are laid carefully on a clean sheet. The blades surprised me a lot, she seemed so quiet.   The boxes and boxes of books however do not, the lady was a self admitted bookworm.    Though I have to wonder at the little things I noticed.    Like the claw marks in the wall, left by a cat named Wolverine perhaps? The fist print in the bathroom wall.   Whose was it and what had made them mad enough to do that?

The most interesting question I suspect is at least twenty cardboard boxes. On the top of each box the letters “BRG” are printed shakily in what might be blue magic marker.   Dates are also printed on the boxes, so I open the box dated earliest.   Inside are three ring binders with title pages under clear plastic slipcovers that read “The Blue Rose Letters”   I whistle softly to myself, this is going to be quite a read. So I take the painting down off the wall and carry it to my car, carefully packing the boxes around it.

At home, I grab a Dr. Pepper from the fridge, a bad habit I suppose but suitable for the situation I think. “Ms. Rachel,” as everyone who worked with her called her, had loved Dr. Pepper.   If she had nothing else she had Dr. Pepper in her fridge and tea in her pantry.   It was her habit to have at least four glasses of tea a day, with two spoonfuls of sugar in each. That was her daily routine, with only two exceptions. For one day, on September fourteenth she drank A&W Root Beer though on any other day she would say she never did like it.   The other day which had a routine all it’s own was November twenty second.  A canister of white tea would be set out on the counter with a note from the previous shift requesting that any brewed that day come out of that and remain unsweetened.   After that at least one glass a day was made without sugar until the canister was empty.    I settled into the most comfortable seat in the house and crack open the first binder.

Three days, six binders, and I lose count of how many glasses of tea and bottles of Dr. Pepper later, I’m stunned.   Spread across the pages, typed neatly in black and (sometimes) blue ink is the log of a relationship  that spanned decades and defied explanation.    Most of their letters are perfectly ordinary, but they are still somehow special.   Perhaps that feeling comes from the fact that the letters were written as often as they were, scanning the dates I can see that these two rarely went an entire week without writing  each other. Something in one of the letters reminds me of something and I rummage through the boxes until I find what I’m looking for.

I carefully lift the aging photo album out of its box and begin to turn the pages gingerly. On the inside cover “Mistwallow Castle Family Album” is written.   I know that most of the photographs were taken within a vitual reality computer game. As I turn the pages I find that I’m reading the names to myself, Greg and Ivy, Duchess and Sky, Eileen and Sol.    I smile fondly at the last two and say, to no one one in particular,”the Lady of the Blue Rose with her Knight.”   In the back I find individual pictures of everybody.   Some are side by side with what must be real life photographs.   Someone has captioned the real life photos with what I assume are given names. A few even have nicknames and birthdays written underneath.

Over the next two months I finished reading the notebooks. Sometimes I felt bad as if were invading someone’s most private space. butI was determined to get to  know these two people.    It wouldn’t be fair to them if they were forgotten.   A week before Ms. Rachel’s birthday, an idea struck me.   I went to the local art store amd bought oil paints and canvas.    It took months to finish, but right around the middle of November  I was satisfied and was able to hang the picture where it belonged.

If you walk into my living room now, you will see two paintings, both of exceptional people.   In one a young woman sits alone, daring the world to test her mettle.  The second two people are dancing in a black and white tiled ballroom.    If someone where to look at the photo album on my coffee table they might recognise the ballroom but not the people though they should The young woman stands straight and proud, finally seen as herself, in the arms of the man who always had. I like to imagine that the smile on her mother’s face is one of pride. Finally a picture of my daughter as she really was.