Monthly Archives: October 2014

Extended Family and a Wild Goose Chase

lettersToday I started a wild goose chase.

My family has a treasure.  A cache of family letters from 1892 to 1927 was uncovered several years ago.  The letters are funny and sad and at times horrifyingly poorly written.  Sometimes they are truly charming.  I find them endlessly fascinating.

I started building out the family tree beyond my direct ancestors to try to understand just who these people were who wrote the letters.  Challenges and news in the letters piqued my interest and I started researching the areas in which they lived, what was happening in the country and the world at the time the letters were written.  What was happening where they were, in their world?  A lot happened in those three and a half decades.  Spanish flu, the first world war, droughts, diphtheria epidemics, land grants and migrations west. My second great grand uncle was adamant that the family vote for Weaver in the election of 1892.  Neither my uncle’s campaign nor Weaver’s was successful.

Because I am so endlessly fascinated with the letters I began trying to track down far flung, distant relatives, descendents of the authors of the letters.  First cousins four times removed and fifth cousins and people who aren’t blood relations at all on the off chance that they would find the letters fascinating too.  And I have found some.

So today I wrote them letters, and printed out copies of the old family letters the are written by, or reference their distant direct ancestors.  I have no idea if I will ever hear back from them.  No idea if they will even read the packets I put together.  But it felt good.

Wild Goose Chase Letter_001And maybe, just maybe, it will make someone’s day to get a soft, brown envelope in the mail with words written by their grandmother, or great-great uncle or cousin talking about their day, their life a hundred years ago.  Maybe my own personal community, my village, will expand just a bit to include people I never would have known, but who have ancestors in common, if someone had not decided to renovate a house years ago, and taken the time to call my grandparents and return these letters to our family.

If you are interested in reading a few of the letters you can take a look here.  Letters

Collaging a story – Jenny Crusie’s Latest

I have tried the collage method to get a story to gel, but I have never broken out the construction tools or built anything like Jenny Crusie’s creation for her current WIP.  

crusie 1crusie 2

This is amazing and I cannot wait to see what she does with the frame.

Take a look at some of her collages and visual planning for past books.  Some days I really want to be her when I grow up.crusie 3 crusie 4
Do you have a process for getting a story or project to gel as you are writing?

Hibernation (a poem two ways and a poll)

editing

(Image courtesy of Michael Sullivan – check out his post on editing here)

I have a love/hate relationship with editing (please tell me I am not the only one!).  Sometimes I feel that I am invested in every single word I wrote like I gave birth to it. As a result I hang on to words and entire scenes that should have been relegated to the virtual recycle bin in the sky.

But sometimes I really feel that all of the words, the detail, matters.  Not in a Dickensian getting-paid-by-the-word kind of way but in a rounding out the story, the poem, the message that I am trying to capture and share kind of way.

And so, I would like to ask a favor of you.  Please read the two following versions of a poem from my recent feral writing class (they are short, I promise) and just indicate in the poll below whether you prefer version one (longer) or version two (minimalist).  Which speaks to you or resonates?  If you would be willing to leave specific notes on why you prefer one over the other I would be eternally grateful, but if you only have a second please click on the one question poll – and thank you!

Hibernation (Version One – Long)
Fall is in the air.
Walks through the park
Crunching leaves beneath our feet,
Pumpkin-spice lattes
And bonfires
Will give way
To hearty soups,
Strong black tea,
Wool sweaters,
An extra down comforter
Heavy on the bed.
Coming soon
Snowbound afternoons
Reading away the hours
Or the days.
Rich colors
And textures of
Cashmere, flannel
And velvet.
Night falling early
With long, fire-lit
Evenings
To write
Or linger with each other
Long touches,
Whispers,
Unhurried kisses
In the long dark
Of our hibernation

Hibernation (Version Two – Minimalist)
Fall is in the air.
Hearty soups,
Strong black tea,
Wool sweaters,
An extra down comforter
Heavy on the bed.
Evenings
To write
Or linger with touches,
Whispers,
Unhurried kisses
In the long dark
Of our hibernation

Simple: A Meditation

Handkerchiefs

Simple: A meditation
A scone on a china plate. A fire in the fireplace, or a fan, lazy in the window. Sheets on the clothesline in the yard. A notebook and a smooth flowing ink pen. A stack of library books yet to be read. The scent of Downy fresh laundry. Kids laughing in the other room. Sitting in church on the hard pew in the spare white sanctuary. The music of a single instrument; piano or oboe, cello or native flute. An a cappella choir. Family and history. Holding hands. My children’s voices on the phone. Belly laughs and inside jokes. Quotes from books or movies shared with secret smiles.

—-

Simple truths
We resist the simple truths. Not “father knows best”, but “you will miss him when he’s gone”.

Love one another. Respect others; their beliefs and their belongings. Be true to your word. Be true. Be on time. Don’t be afraid to love. Don’t hold grudges – forgive others as you would be forgiven. Forgive. Listen more than you speak. Take the time. Put your heart and soul into what matters most to you.

Poem: The Neighbors

The neighbors

It was hard to learn again
To trust the neighbors
She spent the war years
Walking softly
Being quiet
Smiling, but not often
Meeting the neighbors’ eyes

She still cleans the room
Every week,
Dusting the small shelf
With the books
Of poetry
And the vase
She tried to keep full of flowers
In the summertime.
Sweeping the floor,
Keeping the bed linens fresh;
Although no one has slept
Behind this hidden door
In seventy years.

She remembers the stories
Shared in the dark
Evenings during the blackout
About Mme. Broussard
And how she whispered to her brother
In the gendarme
About the people in the neighborhood
That she didn’t like
And no one saw those neighbors again.
And M. Cloet, the school teacher
Who would ask his students
To tell him what their parents spoke
About the Vichy government
At home.

It was hard to learn again
To trust the neighbors
She spent the war years
Walking softly
Being quiet
Smiling, but not often
Meeting the neighbors’ eyes.

Depression

Sitting sentry in the hallway
Rough with wear and dirt
Symbol of her father’s strength
But sometimes
They frightened her
Dark and waiting
Full of his essence
Resting by the door.
In his dark times
There were no smiles
Or stories
No great booming voice.
He would sit alone
In the dark and quiet.
Then she would tip-toe
Quickly past
Not wanting to wake
The darkness
That seemed to linger
In her daddy’s boots

My grandfather died well after I was an adult.  My memories of him are of warm, rough hugs against wool work shirts, the scent of hand rolled cigarettes, strong fingers grasping ours, or our shoulders, always working with his hands on wooden bowls, or stone jewelry.  He was a warm, loving man and just thinking of him fills my heart.  But like many of us he had dark times.  When my mother was a small child she remembers running past her father’s boots sitting by his chair.  She was afraid of them, but only when they were off and waiting.  On him, they were just a part of Daddy.