life between the pages

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Staying Connected

Justine Musk, a novelist who blogs about the creative process, wrote this very helpful article recently about developing your creative process. When I find the words difficult to write, even thoughts difficult to form, images and music often get me going again, if I'll take the time to tap into them.

Then there are the times when I've creative thoughts aplenty, but no time to set them down. Sometimes I leave myself little notes, or record a memo in my cell phone in an attempt at capturing the impetus while it's fresh, hopefully to preserve it so that it may be applied later. Sometimes this works, other times the fragments mystify me.

Winter is a time when activity slows, when thoughts range over our personal histories, experiences, and we often feel compelled to examine wants and needs. Often these produce something wonderful which presses through the outlet of our mind onto paper or screen. When we capture something whole from within ourselves and share it with the world it is a re-affirmation of the whole experience of living, a reconnection of the mundane with the divine spice of creativity itself.

Enter your inner world with a candle lit against the dark, humming a tune you love, and watch the shadows lift as the prisms catch the beautiful wonder of your own mind. Be at peace, reflect, teach your soul to dance.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Taste of Things to Come

No words. What do you say to this?

Tell you what. SAY nothing. DO SOMETHING.

JOIN an organization whose mission is to keep farming REAL.

BUY 5 pounds worth of UnCheese


SUPPORT Real Agriculture. It's only your health at stake.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thought for Today

A friend is someone who sees through you and still enjoys the view

~ Wilma Askinas

Take a look: Link to interview with Phoebe Dorin, who talks about her off-screen relationship with Michael Dunn. Had no idea of the interesting history and friendship between these two semi-famous partners in crime. Made me think; you will too.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

21 Things I Learned from Lorelai Gilmore

 Get the Complete Gilmore Girls Series at

1. There are very few pains that cannot be cured with a liberal application of Rocky Road ice cream, eyeliner, and martinis.
2. You can run from your troubles, but eventually you’ll run back. Otherwise you’ll never get over them.
3. Laughter is the best medicine.
4. Real love never ends.
5. Good things only get better. Sometimes this happens when you’re not looking.
6. Celebrate birthdays, weddings, and the life of your neighbor’s cat with the same warmth and enthusiasm.
7. The first snowfall of the season is a living, breathing, sacred thing. No matter when it happens, go outside and greet it with effusive joy.
8. Your first duty is to your children. Everything else can wait.
9. Even weirdo freaks have souls.
10. Coffee is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Beer runs a close second. Sorry, Ben.
11. Say you’re sorry as soon as you can, and mean it.
12. Wait. Time heals all wounds.
13. Show up. Look smashing.
14. Be yourself. No one else can pull it off.
15. Appreciate everyone, including obnoxious picky French men, gossipy busybodies, aging drama queens, control freaks with bad toupees, and grouchy hermits. If nothing else they keep life interesting and amusing, and sometimes they are exactly the right person for something very special.
16. Never underestimate the inexpressible importance of the perfect shoes, scarves, and handbags. Also, Hello Kitty. Pink sweaters with ruffles and flowers. Black mini skirts. Tulle. Skinny jeans. And pearls.
17. Movie nights are for eating, philosophy and social commentary. In that order.
18. Your first love will always be special. Your first real love even more so.
19. There are a lot of amazing female role models. After you’ve followed their example for awhile, be one.
20. Take others much more seriously than you take yourself.
21. Read. Often, or not. There’s a lot to be learned from books. But if you don’t read, surround yourself with people who do. Some of that wisdom will rub off.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Humility and a Secure Future

Reading "God Never Blinks." Regina Brett has so much to offer to a world down on its luck, seemingly running out of time, with so much to worry about. With plans scattered like so many specks of dust to places invisible, it's much too easy to forget our basis for faith, and how to reach out and hold on to what has kept us going in the past. Taking one more step forward sometimes feels too damned hard, and hardly worth it. After all, why wake up to one more day of struggle? Isn't it better to just roll over and hit the snooze button? "Forget about life for awhile"?

Why yes, actually. Sometimes that's exactly what we should do.

Life of Agony reminds us exactly what it's like to be worn out and in dire need of escape, maybe with a bit more of an edge than Billy Joel did, but the message is the same. Sometimes we do need to just get it all out in order to forget how bad it all is. And that's okay. But after that, there's something else that's the spiritual and emotional equivalent of clearing the air so we can breathe again.

It's called forgiveness.

Ms. Brett has a bumper sticker that says, "God Bless the Whole World. No Exceptions." She goes on to tell us "Forgive Everybody Everything." I can vouch for the goodness in that. There is nothing anyone's done to me that's worth the spiritual and emotional turmoil of holding a grudge. Nobody's worth eating up my liver over. Nobody gets to be that powerful over me and my life, and as far as I know, nobody really wants to be.

This is not to say nobody's mistreated me. Far from it. Like a lot of people, I'm one of the "walking wounded." But you know what? That just means I've learned a few things. It doesn't mean anyone owes me anything. That honor belongs to - you guessed it - just me.

For about five minutes, it does me good to get angry and rant and spout out all the venom and bile that some peoples' actions incite. But after that, it's good to just put all that away and move on, looking around to see the good things that are still surrounding my world and reminding me that it's never too late to put down that burden and step forward into the light. In fact, if I don't, it's just going to get heavier and heavier the longer I forget to do so.

"Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better past. At first that sounds harsh, but once you let go of what you wanted the past to be, you can start changing the present and create a better future," Ms. Brett writes in Lesson 28. Well, duh. Why didn't I figure that out already? Sometimes we need people to point out the obvious, so we can clear the smudges from our eyes and actually see what we're looking at. You can't move beyond something, or stop being a victim, until you stop calling yourself a loser, and take back your own power over situations. Forgive, and then forget. Choose life, and remove yourself from that pain. Put it down. Let it go.

Here's a gem of real value, and I'm putting it here where I'll remember to come back and read it from time to time:

Humility is perpetual quietness of heart.
It is to have no trouble.
It is never to be fretted or vexed, irritable or sore; to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me.
It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised, it is to have a blessed home in myself where I can go in and shut the door and kneel to my Father in secret and be at peace, as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and about is seeming trouble.
--Dr. Bob, co-founder of AA and the Twelve-Step Program

Well then. Today is my lucky day. Yours, too! Go out there and forgive somebody. And then treat yourself to a big slice of that pie called Life. There's very little you can do that will more strongly ensure control of your own destiny. And what's more secure than that?

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Traveling Light

I find myself sick of traveling, frankly. All I want to do now is curl up with a book, stare outside, look at the window, ponder a bit. Listen to loved ones, think about what they've said, listen some more. This is a major change from past propensities, which was to pick up and go at the merest wisp of a suggestion. Travel meant going beyond the place that I was, seeing new things as much as re-connecting with old ones.

Reading this piece at Salon brought this home recently. This is a wonderful article, well-crafted and superbly worded, the author has the grasp of language that slips into your mind easily. The second-person point of view is difficult to do well, but she does it with single-minded aplomb, leaving no question of her genius. It is taken from a larger work, Stranger Things Happen: Stories, and when I saw this I stopped reading long enough to add to my "To Read" list at Goodreads. It was that good. She was speaking to me, I was sure, or at least someone who had shared my experiences - we were kindred and I followed her down the rabbit-hole with faith that was quite blind. I was expecting a swirling, satisfying finish, where all is right in the end.

Silly me.

As I wrote to my sister when I sent her the article, dear Ms. Link had it right at the outset, she took you along a steep, winding and bloody difficult path, but surely she stopped just short of where the journey really reached its final destination. She knows the fairy-tale path so well! How could she have missed the whole point?

Read the article, mind you, before you travel further, or you're not going to believe me. You'll think I'm making this all up. And read this interview with Kelly Link by Laura Miller, Romance and Other Myths, which is right as rain throughout except for those needling little thrusts both of them make at the insanity that is "true love." Ms. Link and I share some similarities, we have both lived a "peripatetic life," but for pity's sake at some point we all have to settle down sometime. Maybe it's just the propensity of some people to joust at windmills, but it would be a sad world indeed for those of us who crave the warmth of quiet home fires to think that all this patient belief in love is all for naught. Phooey. Inside a voice whispers, "She missed the point."

Yet I still want to read her work, if only just for the repeated satisfaction of re-discovering that this belief in love is really just belief in myself. She's right, of course - the too-hard, misbegotten journey where you press on until your feet are cut to ribbons from all the miss-steps you've made is a bit much. When you get to the end of that trial how do you even know you're there? You're too busy picking glass out of your feet and re-applying eyeliner, wetting your lips, rehearsing what you're going to say so he doesn't get the wrong idea, and trying to remember where you left the keys. It's all drama at that point, and who has the energy for that?

So you clear the air and start over. Throw out the dirty dishes, add to the archaeological treasures in the backyard. Sweep up the shards from the broken mirror, apologize. Let a brief, beautiful memory or a shared glance make you smile. Back up, turn the wheel. Don't go down that path. Refresh your mind in shared laughter, challenge yourself to swallow pride over what was lost through ridiculous circumstances and look how simple things become once you've forgiven him. Forgiven yourself for being so blind and wicked.

There are two, no three, other fictional heroines, very different and yet similar enough to make the comparison in this instance, because their epiphanies are more - shall we say, agreeable. Theirs are stories I can relate to, be satisfied with, because these women and men forgave, and forgot, and in so doing reaped the benefits of what I believe is a more fulfilled existence, because it is shared. I don't have words to say just why this is, but it's true. No man is an island. No woman, either. Jane went back to Rochester. Elizabeth married Darcy. Luke and Lorelai figured it out in spite of everything. I know of a few real-life couples who did this, too. Sara and Richard. Gwen and Gavin. Joan and Robin, whose story in An Unfinished Marriage is remarkably simple, which makes it all the more interesting and applicable.

Truce. Because every day with your partner is practice for how you'll succeed in the real world, and how you treat those closest to you mirrors how you treat yourself.

Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love never ends. Faith, hope, and love - these three, but the greatest of these is Love.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Preserving Summer Harvest

Chutney is a delectable, spicy preserve-like concoction that is made to be served with slowly-roasted beef, chicken, or pork but is also delicious embedded in an omelet or folded into a piquant casserole. Best when the freshest ingredients are used at the height of their summer goodness, it takes time and patience to chop, peel, skin, and dice all the fruits and vegetables that go into it, but when savoring your own prudent industry over a leisurely wintry meal, there’s simply nothing better to recall to mind the warmth and goodness of long summer days.

Last August 23rd, dear husband and I managed to put up a very good batch of Peach Chutney that we adapted from a recipe in Linda Ferrari’s classic Canning and Preserving, and I took pictures intending to share the results with folks here at the blog. The local peaches and the peppers from the garden were especially plentiful - and juicy - last year. However, real life being what it is, I never got around to making the blog post. Some people may wonder why I’m bothering to do it now, but I’m of the mind that it really is never too late to recall and make a note of good things like this. Jason & I used to make Chutney a lot; in fact, one of our family jokes was to make this very British preparation in early July, and tongue-in-cheek to call it “Fourth of July Chutney,” ‘cause we’re awesome like that. But I digress.

Being in the kitchen is one of my favorite memories of life with this man, who is much more at home around the stove & countertop than I am. While at times it may have been a little awkward as we worked around each others’ idiosyncrasies (random grumbles and mutual harrumphs notwithstanding), as I look back over the years I feel a warmth rise in my chest remembering the way his hands moved, assuredly and with the skill of long practice, and the delectable meals he’s prepared. So - here ‘tis, a year late, but still kind of wonderful – and I’m not just talking about the tangible results. There’s something magical about working together and producing something fine that goes beyond the immediate; it’s a shared experience that underscores the importance of living in the moment while affirming that even when it’s a bit of a challenge, the future is an opportunity worth preserving. Try it with someone you love.

Peach Chutney

7 lbs. fresh peaches, blanched, skinned and chopped
1 large onion, minced
1 c. dried currants
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 large gingerroot, peeled and finely chopped
Several red, green, and yellow peppers, sliced, seeds removed, and minced
2 c. cider vinegar
2 c. brown sugar
½ c. granulated organic cane sugar
1 tsp. ground peppercorns
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. whole cloves
½ tsp. ground mace
¾ tsp. ground allspice

Prepare fruit and vegetables carefully. Blend vinegar, sugars, lemon juice, zest, ginger root, and spices in a large heavy pot placed on the stove. Add peaches, onion, currants, and peppers. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until slow boil is reached. Lower heat and simmer until thickened to correct consistency.

Ladle into hot, prepared jars, seal, and process for 10 minutes in a water bath. Cool for several hours or overnight and check for complete sealing of jars.

Makes approximately 7-8 pints. Store in a cool, dark place.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Yes Martinsville

I grew up on a beautiful, quiet street in small-town America. It's still small and quiet, but not in quite the same way. Thank goodness it's still beautiful, too.... but for how long is anybody's guess.

Two decades ago, Martinsville Virginia had DuPont, Bassett-Walker, Levi Strauss, Hooker Furniture, Bassett Furniture Industries, and many spin-off manufacturing and shipping firms that were interlaced and inter-dependent for supplies and labor.  Today the county in which Martinsville is located has one of the highest unemployment figures in America at over 20% (at one point it has reached as high as 43%).  The present major employers are listed here, and look at their tiny numbers, and also note the fact that most of them are government and very low-paying service industry jobs. This is horrifying considering Martinsville traditionally has pulled employees from three other counties including one in North Carolina.

The Virginia Museum of Natural History is located in Martinsville, which is an affiliate of the Smithsonian. New College and a significant military technology contractor are located there, but are struggling. There was never much of a housing industry because Martinsville & Henry County's population has remained flat for over two decades. Martinsville has received federal grants and millions in private money has poured in, as attempts to revitalize the economy through restructuring toward technology-based businesses, incentives, and very creative new enterprises have all failed to make a dent in the downward spiral that began in the early 1990s with the closure of Tultex Industries, closely followed by DuPont and the rest. The search for economic options has gone to the grassroots level, as unemployed citizens take their campaign to attract a Google pilot infrastructure project to the town to the Internet, in an attempt to gather support from people who used to live there. Politicians regularly visit the area as it's become the poster child for what's wrong with the economy. Small start-ups and Mom & Pop retailers, cafes, and small-scale service industries are the only game in town, and their turnover is staggering because no one has any money to spend.

Overall all of these efforts are failing to reverse the fact that the town is dying. Take a look. I hardly recognize my hometown in these images. The conclusion at the end of the article is sobering to say the least. The writer implies that as Martinsville has gone, so may the rest of America. I'm certain that's extreme, but it does serve to illustrate the acute changes the export of American manufacturing jobs overseas has brought to at least one community. We are fortunate that here in Sumter County we still have a manufacturing base that is higher than the average.

Link to the New Yorker Article - updated link
Another interesting viewpoint comparing the town of Mt Airy and Martinsville
Thank you for your time in reading this and looking at the links and article. Please pass this on to whomever you think would be interested in this or could use a reminder of what we work every day to avoid.

ETA: A Martinsville City Councilman counters with some lovely images in this video. Enjoy!
ETA #2: Most of the links in this article have succumbed to time. Here is a link to the George Packer New Yorker article that mentions Martinsville. I'll try to update the links as they are found.