Friday, March 14, 2014

Beach

The waves wage war against the shore,
And crabs scuttle clumsily through the surf,
Seeking sustenance, shells, and solitude.

The sand stands strong against the boar-
Charge of the challenging tide’s turbulent
Hour, halting the harassing multi-hued

Water. The war waxes and wanes
But, the harsh beauty of the hastening
Assault arouses no ally’s anger.

Smooth stones drift swiftly through, away,
And toward the terracotta sand space
Of the beach. Barely clad, browned sun-bathers

Face the fury of the full globe
Unprotected by thick white sun-lotion,

Or the outspread shade of beach umbrellas.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Tale - Syllabics Poem

She stands by a window
Caught in a shaft of sunlight
Face turned away

Her gaze rests on the bow
Its arrows used in the fight
No more to fly

Footsteps sound on flagstones
Echoing up the spiral steps
Death comes swiftly

Shouts rebound from below
Soldiers yell with combined might
Victory in sight

Her long blonde hair braided
An instrument of defeat
No salvation

The door to her tower
Swings into her chamber room
“Fair Rapunzel,”

“Let down your hair.”

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Influences

Today, I was thinking about how school and life have influenced me—not only as a writer, but also a person in the world.

Influences

School – Books, Ideas, Influences, etc
Outside – Books, Movies, TV Shows, etc

A. School Ideas

a. Knowledge – Must build your knowledge from a diverse base (like a pyramid), rather than the English idea of narrowing your knowledge, from freshman year, to a specific field.

b. Discovery – I learn better through discussion rather than personal study, but I don't necessarily enjoy discussion.

c. Misconceptions – People assume that if you write well and read often, you enjoy school. My high school English teacher also assumed I already knew everything about English Grammar—until senior year when we performed grammar exercises to fill a gap in our class time.

d. Writing – Everyone says that you must write often to start writing well, but I never really understand that saying unless I am writing often. When I don’t write, I forget that I am not improving my writing; I assume my college education is doing that for me without any extra required effort on my part.


B. School Books

a. Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (elementary school)




i. This book was the very first adult level novel I ever read, and I read it to challenge myself in the fourth grade.  At that point in my life, I was becoming exceedingly annoyed with the simplicity of the books ranked as equivalent to the reading skill of a fourth grader.  Jane Eyre expanded my horizons as a reader and writer. My writing sometimes takes on a dark perspective, and that perspective can be directly linked to this novel and my subsequent readings of Edgar Allen Poe’s poems.








b. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (college)
i. This book introduced me to a number of new perspectives on writing, and it also pointed out some techniques which I did not realize I was already using. I felt reaffirmed as a writer. I would suggest this book to anyone who would like some ideas on the process of writing. It was introduced to me as a textbook in a composition course, and it is the first textbook I ever kept to read for pleasure.






C. Outside Books

a. David Eddings’ The Belgariad series (elementary/middle school)


i. These books could be said to be the reason I became a writer. I realized, instead of writing about my observations of this world, I could actually create my own world and use the myths to build epic adventures with magic, monsters, and larger-than-life heroes.







b. Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series (middle school/high school/college)


i. Robert Jordan showed me how a seemingly simple story could reveal itself as a really complex narrative throughout the course of a series. I came to this realization because the scope of the novels covered my entire life (as it has taken over two decades to complete the series), and I therefore had to reread the entire series every time a new book came out. This has shown me that we do not always see the writing between the lines; we need to look closer at what we are experiencing to ensure that we don’t miss something extremely important to the story of our life. The very fact that I didn’t come to this conclusion until I started writing about this shows that writing is my route of discovery.


I wonder what it says about me to outsiders that I didn't get past ideas and books before stopping?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Lately, I have been thinking about how our childhoods affect the outcome of our lives.  I can happily tell you that this post is not a long philosophical debate on this subject, but rather "a walk down memory lane".


My first memory is of being potty-trained.  When I say this, I don't mean the memory of learning to go to the bathroom when I have the need, but actually learning how to sit on a toilet.  I don't know how far I had progressed in potty training, but I do know that I was at that time "a big girl" enough to finally use an adult toilet for the first time.  I was standing in the only bathroom in my grandmother's old house and both my mother and my grandmother were in the room with me.  I assume that I had told them I needed to use the toilet, and they decided it was time for me to upgrade from the child-sized plastic potty trainer to the adult sized ceramic bowl of the toilet.  I remember climbing on the toilet when they asked me, and the confusion I felt when they started to laugh at me.  My grandma said, "No, that's how boys do it."  Evidently, girls aren't suppose to face the tank when they sit down to pee.


Although some people may not see this as a particularly fond or nice memory to have as my earliest memory, I don't think I would trade it for any other because it is a memory very significant to growing up, and it is a memory filled with the laughter of two of the women I love most. One person to whom I told this story commented that it was rather mean of my mother and grandmother to laugh at me. They wanted to know if this laughter set me back in my potty training. Truthfully, I have to idea whether it did or not, but I don't think it did. I have always responded much better to laughter than to yells. If they had grown angry at my foible, then I could believe that this event was an unhealthy one in my childhood, but the utter lack of hostility persuades me that this memory is one that has influenced my life in a positive manner.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Mother's Embrace

          I’ve always wondered what my life would have been like if I had been born a bird rather than a premature baby girl.  The first month of my life I survived through sheer force of will, and the implementation of modern technology.  My mother says she safeguarded the flame of my life with her physical presence and spiritual prayer.  Since I left the hospital eighteen years ago, she has safeguarded me with the walls of our home as well.
            I’m not allowed out of the house after dark, or outside the wrought-iron fence surrounding our property without my mother’s presence at my side.  My mother has been a stay-at-home mom since she printed my name in capital letters on my birth certificate:  ANGELICA BELLE WASHINGTON.  I want to be a Robin so I can fly free of her embrace, but then, I think, shouldn’t Angels have wings too?
            My father’s key to escape my mother’s cage is the same reason she is able to keep me locked in.  His position as a lawyer for West Virginia’s Senator James Weston provides him with the money to keep my mother in the debutante lifestyle she was raised to expect—enabling her to stay with me every moment of the day.  His career equips him with a more than adequate supply of excuses with which to evade my mother’s clutches, because of course a Senator requires the excellent advise of his lawyer quite regularly and this advice must be presented in person if it is to be understood clearly.
            I’ve been homeschooled my entire life, a new tutor each year to diversify my education, and ensure that my mother will always be the rock in my existence.  The only times I am allowed out into the world are for my mother’s society meetings.  Tea with the ladies and their daughters at Bridgeport Country Club.  Brunch with Mrs. Weston, and rarely her married daughter, Martha Rothschild.  Although eight years my senior, Martha is the closest friendship I can claim.  Occasionally, she will visit me in my unnatural habitat.  Sit across from me in the over decorated sitting room on the first floor of the cage I call home.  Perch on the soft chairs which try to remind me with their quicksand embrace that I am trapped here.  I envy her freedom even though she has little more than I.  The chains of marriage and motherhood hold her almost as tightly as parental obligation shackles me.
            Today, she faces me across the expanse of the sitting room’s massive oak coffee table.  We both focus the subjects of our conversation on pleasantries while my mother hovers in the seat beside my own.  The almost silent sound of my mother delicately nibbling on a cucumber sandwich is the most interesting sound in the room.  I see Martha struggling to find something more to say, and I know that she will leave soon.  Although I normally await this signal with dread and compliance, this day I feel an unbearable urge to act.  Once Martha has completed her recitation of baby Gregory’s newest accomplishment, grasping his own spoon, I make my move.

           "Mother?  Were you wanting to show Martha your newest embroidery?  The one father suggested you take up?"  My mother's expression changed from one of genteel calm to a rather rapt expression of interest.  Expecting me, her embroidery was by far her greatest passion.  After my mother excused herself to fetch the embroidery hoop, I moved around the oak monstrosity to perch on the chair next to Martha.
           

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Tree-lined Hills

I have ever been afraid of the tree-lined hills around my town.  The starkness of their limbs seems to scream at me, for even in the height of spring they barely hold a hint of green.  No one else ever thought it strange and seemed quite taken aback anytime I happened to mention it.  I have always believed that those hills are the reason that we never acquire new town members.  Travelers pass through and look around at the barren trees on the glassy slopes of the surrounding hills and turn quickly back the way they came.  I can see it in their eyes, the acknowledgment that there is something wrong with that landscape.  No one else notices.  No one else believes. 
I blame the first disappearances on those hills, and the ones after on the fact that people went out into the tree filled, rolling landscape to look for the missing.  Their mistake for ignoring what I could see. 
There are currently twenty-three people missing.  That may not be a large amount to any other town, but Alcot can only lay claim to a couple hundred individuals.  It is quite a punch to us, and more people disappear as the days go by.  Some can be seen wondering off of their own accord, but others simply vanish without a word or witness.
The sheriff refuses to call for state or federal assistance, even though he has already lost both of his deputies to those hills—the first his own flesh-and-blood son.  It is passing strange that the sheriff never went to look for his son.  It is even more strange the power these hills have over a community which refuses to acknowledge the existence of any power, save that of God.
Their mistake, and no one but me to correct it.  And what am I to do about the matter?  I may be the only one in my town with the power to sense the wrongness of the hills—and their ghostly trees—but I hold no other power, not even that which is granted with adulthood.  I am seventeen years old, and my right of passage lies seven months away—if there are even any of my townsfolk remaining by then to see me through it.  I cannot wait that long to enter the woods. 

I toss my hair behind my shoulder with a quick shake of my head.  No, I cannot even wait until the coming day dawns—my dreams have told me this much.  If I do not enter the hills tonight, my mother will be the next to disappear.  I do not question this knowledge.  I have always had unexplainable knowledge, and it has never failed me in its truth.  I no longer question why I have it.  The answer is quite simple really—all knowledge is given so that it can be used.  I am given this knowledge because I am the only one who will act on it.  The only one with faith in ungodly things, which can be sensed simply by looking at those tree-lined hills.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Rumor Mill

          Lia pondered the question for a moment before she answered, “He kinda reminds me of an owl.  He’s got this fluffy tuft of white hair framing his face, and his eyes always seem to be open just a little too wide.  And, if you watch closely, he moves his arms like a bird resettling its wings.  They even make weird fluttering movements when he talks.  He also poofs his mouth out—not the exact shape of a beak, but close enough considering.”

            Jules tossed her hair off of her shoulder and tucked her hands into her jean pockets.  Lia could not help but admire the cascade of silky black hair which fell to Jules’s waist.  The quick spark of jealousy sent her left hand up to finger her own locks.  Her hair felt smooth beneath her fingertips, but every time she looked in the mirror, Lia was confronted with the truth of her wild and frizzy mouse brown curls.

            Jules voice interrupted her thoughts.  “I’ll give you that one.  I always thought a squirrel fit him better—bushy tail coming to attention every time a student speaks.  I can definitely picture Professor Gillard as an owl though.”


            “Kind of rings with the whole questioning act of philosophy too, doesn’t it?  Who? Who? Who!”

Friday, March 7, 2014

Lost

          Linda put her hand on the lever and pulled it down.  The slot machine came to life before her, the pictures rolling quickly in the three frames.  She could dimly hear the Vegas noise behind her, but her eyes and ears were focused on the machine in front of her.  The first picture stopped rolling and rested on a “7”.  The second picture halted a moment later, “7” again.  Linda felt her throat contract rigidly and her left hand flew up to rest on the face of the machine.

            When the third roller stopped, she just sat staring at the double cherries.  7, 7, cherries.  Her fingers felt numb as she pulled her gamer’s card out of the machine.  Five thousand dollars.  Lost.  Linda wrapped the card’s lanyard chain around her hand and stood up.


            The casino noises crashed down on her as she walked toward the exit.  What was she going to tell her brother?  Harvey had loaned her the money to get her out of debt, not further into it.  She could no longer remember a time when she had not taken every dollar she earned to the casino.  It had been two months since she had a regular job with a consistent paycheck—most employers didn’t want an addictive gambler as an employee.  Every last one of them had considered her a security threat, like she had the money or the smarts to steal from them.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Gift

          The incident began in late October.  Camille was taking her usual early morning walk around the lake just west of her family’s farm.  The walk had been a habit of hers since she was old enough to be let out of the house alone.  She found comfort in the sameness of each trek.  She knew the feel of the dirt on the west side close by her father’s barn, the sharpness of each rock on the north side, and the swish of the knee high cattle grass as she crossed the pasture on the southern slope of the lake.  No matter what time of year it was, whether the crystalline quiet of winter or the waiting silence of spring, the only noises were the sounds of her footfalls, the whistles of the wind through the grass, and the songs of the grasshoppers. 

The cows had been gone since before she was allowed out on her own.  Everyone in town scratched their heads at a farm-wife who was afraid of cows, but Camille’s mother had barely survived a stampede in her teens—as soon as Camille was born, the cattle were sold.  She knew her father wasn’t much bothered by this.  The main source of the family’s income came from the fields anyway.  Camille’s father, Harold Grover, put love into his crops, and that feeling gave them flavor.  You could tell when a farmer didn’t care about their produce—a certain blandness always pervaded the vegetables of those who were simply out for a profit. 

The smell of the pumpkins seemed to wrap her in comforting arms—her father’s love protected her here; the farm knew she was his cultivation as much as it was.  As Camille started down the western rise of the three square mile lake, she was thinking rather strongly of her father’s love.  He had known from his early childhood that his Gift was a love of growing things, vegetables in particular.  His parents had purchased this farm as soon as the manifestation was confirmed by a Placer.  They hadn’t been exactly pleased with the route they knew their son’s life was going to take, but they had accepted it because it was such a rare thing for a child’s Gift to reveal itself before the child reached puberty.  Camille was turning seventeen in less than a month and her Gift had yet to reveal itself.  The whispers in town now spoke more often of this than her mother’s fear. 

Occasionally, children were born Giftless, but it was such a rare occurrence that they had only just now started wondering if she was Giftless.  Camille wondered what it would be like to live her entire life without a Gift.  Her mother’s Gift was weather prediction and her brother was already showing signs of being a veterinarian—he was only twelve.  Camille tossed her hair over her shoulder as she rounded the curve of the lake and started across the gravel laid down for the railroad on her left. 


Today, she couldn’t take comfort from the sold impact of her bare feet on this rough terrain.  Each sharp edge felt like the questioning stares of the townsfolk.  Camille swerved to her left and walked in a line with the railroad rather than the lake.  She felt exhilaration at stepping apart from certainty.  She had never felt the contours of the railroad against the pads of her feet before.  The metal felt cool but strangely alive.  Settling into an easy rhythm, Camille decided to walk the railroad the three miles it would take to reach Bell’s Sound.  Each step she took was silent, and this silence was the reason she decided not to return to the house for her shoes.  Today was Saturday, so she knew her family would wake only long enough to eat and check on the fields before going back to bed.  After all, a farm run by a man with a Gift practically ran itself.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Burned Bridge

          “She won’t speak to me,” I said. 

            Damon shrugged his shoulders, his cotton t-shirt sleeves brushing against my own.  He kept his body facing the TV screen and tilted his head to glance at me.  The sounds coming from the screen almost drowned out his murmured response, “So call her.”

            “I have called her.  She won’t answer.”  I snuggled a little deeper into the plush red suede couch and focused my eyes  on the screen so I wasn’t staring at him awkwardly.

            “So call her from someone else’s phone.”  His fingers continued to tap out the control commands for his character.

            “I’ve tried.  She hangs up as soon as she hears my voice.”

            “Bummer.”  Damon heaved out a sigh.  I was not sure if this was in response to my situation or the fact that his character had failed this level of the game for the fifth time tonight.  He tossed the controller onto the floor before heading into the kitchen.


            I turned to watch his slim figure walk to the fridge and rested my chin on the back of the couch.  The fabric felt soft and cool against my skin and I closed my eyes for a moment, pretending that I could set down my troubles as easily as my head.  I had been so sure that she would take my side, but I should have known that my grandmother would love her son more than she loved me.

Reading Aloud

What is reassuring about reading aloud?  What does reading aloud accomplish for us that reading silently to ourselves does not?

For myself, when I read aloud, I always notice things I missed when I read silently.  It could be an error in the sentence construction which causes me to stumble over a word, or an emphasis placed in a certain area of the sentence.  Sometimes I can sense a depth of emotion present in the way I say the words as I am reading them.

I have found that reading my own work aloud allows me to revise and edit my work to a greater extent and thereby increase the chance that readers will correctly interpret what I am endeavoring to convey.  Is it wise to say that I am my own best critic?  No, but it certainly feels that way when I read my work out loud.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Little Worn Path

          It was just a little worn path to the south of her house, but it fascinated her.  Her mother always warned her away from it, saying a little worn path into the woods was more likely full of bears than not.  Chera really didn’t care.  One day, she would follow that little brown worn path into the inviting green woods but that day would not be today.  Today was her 10th year since birth.  Today, she would be accepted into The School, where she would begin her training.          
          In a few years, maybe they would decide what profession she should train.  Or maybe she would stay longer.  There were those who remained at the School until they reached womanhood on their 17th year.  She approved of those women more than the others, even though her mother was one of the girls sent away early.  The girls who graduated earlier never seemed quite satisfied with their lives, and Chera wanted to exult in hers.          
          She could hear her mother calling her now.  It was finally time to go.  She wasn’t going far, but a journey could never end if it was never begun.  Quickly, she stood up from the gnarly old stump upon which she had been sitting and straightened her pretty pink gown.  It was made of wool—she was used to less expensive fabrics, but no one went to school in old, scratchy clothes.  The dark rich pink of the gown contrasted especially well with her pretty green eyes and soft, dark brown hair.  Or, at least, that is what the seamstresses had told her as they adjusted the cloth around her during her fitting a few short days ago.  Her mother had simply smiled and clasped her father’s hand tightly as they stood side by side watching the fitting progress.       
          Chera's parents didn't own a mirror.  She had never asked why, since having a mirror seemed like a selfish thing, but she couldn't help wishing that she knew what the other girls would see when she entered the School's grounds.