Sparked by Words

Droog Tells a Story

Droog sprints around the campfire before the six members of the gang he hangs out with. He whistles and puffs, pounds his chest and leans over the crowd. He flashes a toothy grimace, gestures wildly. He can’t count how many folks are there but he knows by their faces and smells if one is missing. Droog is the very first human being, a creature different from the monkey hanging by his tail in the tree overhead. He isn’t threatening his gang in a power play or forcing anyone to submit to his demands. Well, not now, anyway.

Droog, you see, is telling a story. The gang he hangs with is mesmerized because they can’t wait to learn what happens next.

The monkey is used to Droog. He’s seen him before and senses when it’s time to high tail it out of there – before Droog grabs him by that long tail and slings him over the fire, making crispy monkey tenders out of him. Monkey acts from instinct and experience. Self preservation is a big deal to him. If monkey is female, she’ll protect her baby with everything she’s got. Hanging overhead of Droog and his gang is fine as long as the ground hoppers leave monkey and her crew alone.

When the big water rushes toward them, they all run – monkey and human. When the big mountain spits fire, they all run. When the giant animal with dagger teeth leaps at them, they all run. Monkey and human run from threats when instinct and experience declare their lives are imperiled. Fire mountain, flooding water, and bounding predator all plan to end their lives.

Monkey and human run and run and run. They climb and hide and cower and watch to make sure they’re safe. When the all clear bells sounds, they go back to doing what they like. Eating and mating and hanging around with each other in a safe place, pulling off ticks and fleas. Monkey and Droog are much the same in these ways. Food, sex, safety. Except this is where it ends with monkey.

Droog stepped over the threshold of humanness, one level further along the evolutionary tree. Maybe we should call it a bramble bush, given how erratically that tree spread its experimental developments. Mab, Hund, Wurf, and all the rest of the human gang do one thing that monkey never does. They tell stories.

Mab scrapes ocher from the river bank and smears it onto rocks, making images that tell stories.

Hund pounds on a dried gourd in a rhythm that quickens and ebbs, making sounds that tell stories.

Wurf hauls a stone out of the earth and carves shapes into it, making forms that tell stories.

After years of watching the very youngest children play, I noticed that all kids tell stories. Putting rocks and leaves in patterns, jabbering to plastic blocks and stuffed animals, toddling outside to hug a roly poly, they tell stories the whole time. The narrative, even if gibberish, infuses their activities with meaning. They tell stories even before they can talk or have the ability to understand the craft of storytelling, Yes, parents read to them, but even the littlest ones are compelled to tell their own stories.

Telling stories is one of the big differences between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom. Droog excels at retelling the run from danger. Bellies fed, sexual desire sated, and safety guaranteed for the next few minutes (even though they can’t count and have no concept of time,) the gang raptly listens and watches while Droog scrabbles, tumbles, waves his arms, wiggles his rear, spits and grunts to tell the story of the fire, the flood, the capture they all just evaded.

Monkey strips bark from the tree and chews. He’s aware of the manic nonsense Droog pulls every once in a while – he’s seen it before but can’t make anything out of all that wild gesticulation except to know that he’s safe in his tree, tail looped around a branch, eating bark. Monkey can’t figure out why Droog is cavorting in the firelight, and he can’t improvise a routine either. Monkey not only can’t tell stories – he can’t perceive when they’re being told.

The gift of free time allows monkey the luxury of hanging around the branches fluffing his neighbor’s fur. That same wealth of time grants Droog his moment of theater. The story of the chase, of the hunt, of birth and death, of visions, of the promise that it will all happen again tomorrow because it happened yesterday, and they all lived to tell about it today.

So here I am, a few evolutionary levels advanced from Droog, a few years older than the kids I observe, telling stories. One day my stories will be available in print and you’ll see they aren’t much different from Droog’s or the toddler’s. My characters run from fire, flood, and monsters with big teeth.

Sharon tells a story.

 

Prehistoric cave art image courtesy Pixabay

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What Do I Do Now?

Speak even when you are speechless.

Bellow when you are crying.

Whisper when you are lost.

Open your palms when words fail.

Pray when you are harrowed.

If nothing grows, plant weeds.

 

Reach out when there’s nothing left to do.

Hold others tight during a quake.

Take the hands of those who stand apart.

Give when your account is empty.

Share everything when nothing remains.

If fish die, water the oceans.

 

Imagine while you dream.

Rock while the baby sleeps.

Cradle when the aged weep.

Plan the future on the last page of the calendar.

Climb atop the barricades.

If you waver, stand on quicksand.

 

Awaken on the cusp of the new day.

Cross over as the piers collapse.

March on two broken feet.

Dance on your knees and elbows.

Crawl on the flesh around your ribs.

If you wear rags, scour the mud.

 

Avoid flight when evil approaches.

Listen to those who will not hear.

Sign for those who are made silent.

Thump your chest when your breath catches.

Pierce your heart when you shiver.

If the bees depart, bring honey.

 

Translate pain into self portraits.

Wail when words are not enough.

Write when words are all you have.

Etch in blood when your pencil breaks.

There’s always something you can do.

If not for you, for someone else.

 

 

Just a thought 44

 

 

Painting: Mother and Child, 1914, by Julius Paulsen

 

 

 

 

 

I Will Tell

 

An old barn is a bane to a farmer but a boon to an artist

A dilapidated shack an eyesore for neighbors but refuge for the poor

A ruined mortal a quarry for accusers but forage for the poet

No matter the cunning snake that wallows in his deceit,

no matter the smirking ghoul who destroys a career,

the gossip who barters a confidence like cheap candy,

or the trusted friend for whom betrayal is a conquest

Even the repentant face in my mirror seeks amends

 

We hold a dance in the old barn for the lovelorn,

pretending we are not the target of the fiddle’s song

We thrust our hand into the poor box, denying our hunger

for the taste of human comfort, of slaking the thirst for touch

We witness the breaking of bonds, the loss of redemption

No matter the ink dripping red and thick as blood,

beating a drum’s dirge so close to the heart

The heat of fever spreads across the dampened cloth

 

Here in the shack lit by the flame within my marrow,

nerve endings steal my breath, fright scores my flesh

All the sorrows of life and demise, of hope and regret

Just this side of one being’s view of all’s fair,

another’s sight of conflict shrieking grievance,

each begging for sympathy and a sacred verse

To me, the ash heap of sorrow and confession,

Remains the mewling rasp of story, and I will tell it

 

 

Just a thought 43

 

 

Old barn photo courtesy Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom

 

Happy 4th of July, Americans.

However you celebrate, remember that freedom is a lifestyle people worldwide struggle to achieve.

Freedom marches on sore feet. Freedom cries on an empty belly. Freedom learns in all colors. Freedom prays in many languages. Freedom hurts. Freedom heals.

We all have a stake in making the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution an ongoing force. An evolving reality that began with dissension over wordage and power. And changed. And changes still.

Be civil. Be fair. We are stronger united but many voices demand an ear. Listen. Read.

We are the face of humanity for the rest of the world.

We are the standard of liberty for all people.

Be civil. Be seen. Be loud. Be present.

March. Write. Speak. Think. Vote.

Assure rights to all Americans. Every day. Every year. Every place.

Life. Liberty. Pursuit of happiness.

Happy 4th of July.

 

Just a thought 42

 

Image: United States of America Declaration of Independence

Don’t you just love those TV cooking shows? Three-minute cooking segments between four-minute commercial breaks, promising dinner ready thirty minutes after you walk in the door, and the best part is: no clean up!

Yeah, right.

Thirty minutes as long as you planned the menu ten days ago, bought the food – all of it – last weekend, had your home concierge wash, chop, measure, and lay out in order needed every ingredient a half hour before you got home. Because if Chef Guido Cucino has a helper on his show, in the background of course, why the hell don’t you? Oh yeah – no producer, director, cameraman, or make up artist either. Sheesh, your feet stink, your back aches, and you must have ground your eyeballs into the Panko bread crumbs. Plus, the business proposal your boss needs you to take a look at tonight – it’ll only take a few minutes, a coupla notes written, after the kids go to bed. (If they go to bed.)

Thirty minutes as long as the older kid brought home the right book for her assignment. As long as the toddler doesn’t need a change of pants and will stop crying long enough for your mind to grasp what crisis requires immediate attention. All of it of course. As long as spouse doesn’t get home the same second as you so you have five minutes thinking time to yourself (but then there are the kids) so you can make a cup of coffee (me) or pour glass of wine (you?) before beginning the supportive repartee necessary to keep your relationship smoothly coasting. (Coasting would be fantastic at this moment.)

Thirty minutes as long as at least one pot is not in the dishwasher and at least four paper plates can be scrounged – that’s one Batman, one Peppa Pig, one hibiscus luau, and one Barbie (sheesh, how old is that one?) Forget the forks, can eat with our fingers, and if the thirty-minute dinner requires spoons, the whole bet is off – none clean in the house, not even plastic. As for glasses and cups – you can use the ones from last night. (Just water or juice, right?)

Thirty minutes as long as the dog is not jumping around your legs making you splash everything wet and fling everything dry, because Poochie Pie is hungry too, for crying out loud. So is the cat, the fish, the bird, and the bunny the neighbor foisted on you when she took off for a week in Maui (when is it YOUR week in Maui?) because Hopalong Rabbity is so easy to care for, you can just dump in dry pellets whenever you think of it, except it must be today because you haven’t even checked on the fuzzy tail for the last two days. (Or was it three?)

Thirty minutes as long as reality kicks in, so while the cooking show is on TV, here are three options, one of which you’ll actually manage:

  1. Call for pizza delivery, thirty minutes to your door guaranteed. Yes, the pizza shop repeats your order as soon as they pick up the phone because they know you well, and the whole family is beginning to look a little doughy, but at least in thirty minutes you will have five – count ‘em, five – minutes of chomping but otherwise silent satisfaction while everyone eats a slice or two.

 

  1. Unpack take out from the Chinese or Mexican fast food at the corner, the ones that know your standing order, and open all the cartons on the TV tables in the family room, letting everyone but the toddler dish up their favorite. Except the toddler will dish his own anyway. Five minutes of chomping while the TV blares some insipid but G-rated movie you’ve found on Hulu. Thirty minutes because it took that much to pop in and out of the joint and get the food home.

 

  1. Dish up leftovers from the chicken casserole your mom made for the family over the weekend because now that you’re out of her house, she misses you more than words can say. Well, she misses the kids and worries they never eat anything but pizza and fast food. Thirty minutes to heat each bowl in the microwave separately and carefully carry to wherever someone is eating – spouse in the lounge chair, daughter in her bedroom, you in the kitchen with the toddler who’s dripping as much as he’s ingesting. Ten minutes of chomping because Grandma made it, but at least everyone’s eating.

 

The one really honest chef in the whole world was Julia Child, bless her squeaky passion for all things French victual. When she explained how to make Boeuf Bourguignon, describing the details of slicing, searing, sautéing, and simmering, you at least had a chance to understand the labor and time commitment to get dinner on the table. So when you finally – finally – dip into this magnificent dish, you’re disappointed to realize it’s just beef stew. (Five hours after you walked in the door.)

Now why was it you didn’t get anything written today on the work-in-progress?

 

Painting Trinkender Koch, (Drinking Cook) 19th century, artist unknown

This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.

Power of Words

Spewed in anger, hatred and ignorance stomping by one’s side, words are curses that strafe the listener.

Written thoughtfully with justice guiding one hand, empathy the other, words are sacred and hallow the reader.

Sometimes it’s the same person raising both flags – and both fists. Think Mohandas Gandhi. Think Susan B. Anthony. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hannah Arendt. Nelson Mandela. Mulala Yousafzai. Ai Weiwei. Oprah Winfrey. Abraham Lincoln. Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Winston Churchill. Marie Curie. Steve Biko. Aung San Suu Kyi. Edward R. Murrow. Ava DuVernay. Bill Gates. Emma Lazarus. Larry Burrows. Mother Teresa. Jacques Cousteau. Christiane Amanpour. Rudolph Nureyev. Judith Leyster. Wang WeiLin (the Tiananmen Square Tank Man.) Kate Leone and Rosaria Maltese (the youngest girls who perished in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.)

Artists, politicians, speakers, writers, thinkers, doers, scientists, rebels, observers, victims and heroes all. They remember history, they stand tall, they broadcast wide, they consider the future. They honor those who went before and think of children yet to come. They plant themselves before tanks, pull down statues, write treaties, document injustice, create art, tend the poor, test frontiers, and forge pathways through flames.

The observers howl. They whisper. They incite. They model. They fail. They confess.

They get folks riled up. They calm them down. They make them feel. They demand response.

They shout in their silence and choke on their tears.

Fiction is flexible. It encourages all ends of the spectrum. Writers agitate as much as rabble rousing firebrands and salve as gently as a nurse dressing wounds.

To follow in such footsteps – I hope my words one day lead you someplace worth the vision.

There is always a reason to write.

 

Just a thought 41

 

Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa (1818-1819)

Francisco Goya’s Third of May (1814)

Dark Wine at Sunrise

 

You’d better get comfy because you won’t want to stop once you begin reading Jenna Barwin’s Dark Wine at Sunrise. It’s Book II of A Hill Vampire Novel series, and it begins where the first book left off. (If you haven’t read Dark Wine at Midnight, don’t cheat yourself of story delight – start there.)

Dr. Cerissa Patel has fallen passionately in love with Henry Bautista, and he’s just as besotted with her. All they want is to be able to pursue their sexy romance unbridled.

Cerissa is a research scientist who’s asked permission to build a lab at the Hill. Secretive because her research is being conducted at the behest of a covert business group with murky intentions, and also because The Hill is secure ground for a vampire community. Cerissa is a Lux, a creature of peculiar heritage with paranormal powers she can’t always control.

Henry Bautista is a vampire with a conflicted moral background and as many jealous enemies as admirers. He owns a thriving vineyard and wine making business and a beautiful home which is the envy of the enclave. He’s also beholden to a female vampire who subverts his desires despite living thousands of miles away.

Did I mention they’re also gorgeous? And very sexy? And the things they say to each other will pierce your heart with longing? That too.

However, Henry is brought to trial by the founding council for breaking a Hill rule. The members impose a violent medieval punishment, threatening his physical sanctity and his burgeoning relationship with Cerissa.

If this stress isn’t enough to dampen their ardor, a murderer is loose within the enclave, picking off vampires with no obvious clue about who’s next. Everyone’s safety appears at risk until they can identify the culprit. All that occurs in just the first couple of chapters.

The story continues to unfold in one thrilling episode after another. Can these two not-quite-human creatures find a way to make the permanent connection they seek? Will Henry give Cerissa the bite she desperately wants to accept? Will the council grant them their freedom so they may fulfill their romantic destiny? Will one or both of them be murdered or forbidden to remain on the Hill? Or will one of them give up everything for the well being of the other?

Barwin writes with passion and a masterful hand at physical and visual description. She manages a complex plot, believable characters (of all ilk,) and credible political underpinnings, creating intrigue within the story. Her world-building is exotic, the personalities are larger than life, but the experiences are grounded in the common human endeavors we all recognize. We want to be seen for who we are, we want fair opportunities, we want to be loved.

I can’t wait until Book III is published. You’ll be pacing as well. Write faster, Ms. Barwin, please write faster.

 

Dark Wine at Sunrise by Jenna Barwin