Friday, April 28, 2006


Mary Ann Beckwith visited St. Louis over a year ago and gave a demonstration of her work. She begins with stretching, very thinly, Halloween spider webbing across a special paper. After wetting the paper, acrylic pain is sprayed over the surface, first one color, then another, then the third. The final product emerges after various shapes are laid onto the surface and a white paint or mist of paint is applied.

The art group/play group met this week and created our own Beckwith Web art. The results, unfinished at this point, show promise. Beckwith's art is the vertical photo.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

AMHERST WRITERS group met again last night.

The writing suggestion was to begin the first line with "The first time..."

Fishing Karma

The first time I caught a fish I knew it was my lucky day. We had been canoeing all day down Jack’s Fork, one of Missouri’s prettiest rivers. Four canoes, ten people, and two days of floating. I had been fishing and floating with these people many times. Most of the fisherman in these canoes were fishing for dinner, but I really only liked casting and casting again.

The best part of fly fishing, I thought, is feeling the rhythm of the line, first waving behind you, and then out in front, and then behind keeping a keen eye on the structure in the water. The structure where all the fish are hiding. When my aim or my karma was on a roll, the fly at the end of the line would sail with ease and hit the water spot on. I’d jerk the line, wait, jerk, and pull it out before the fish knew I was there. This sport is a little more difficult from a canoe. I didn’t intend to make it more difficult by actually catching a fish.

We had stopped the canoe to empty the water from the cooler. No more beer. No sense in weighing down the canoe. I took the opportunity to get in touch with my fishing karma. As the fly touched the water, something grabbed it and pulled on my line. I drew him up near the canoe and watched him swim away when I gave him a lose line. When I held him up, I could see that this fish was just big enough to not see the sun shine through him. He was cute. I had an urge to name him, but knew that would be a bad idea, if we were going to make him a part of our dinner.

“Here he is,” I told my canoe mate, Ben. “We keeping him?”
“It’s too small, throw it back.”
“He’s cute. He’s got a little rainbow coloring behind his fin,” I told him proudly.
“HE'S not worth keeping," Ben said letting his words drip with sarcasm. "He’s a bluegill, and won’t be worth cleaning.”
“Huh. Well?”
“Take him off the hook,” Ben told me, "You caught him."

I didn’t like this part of fishing. Catching fish. The needle-nose pliers were on the floor of the canoe. One side of the nose was broken. I managed, apologizing to Jerry, the whole time, “Sorry, little buddy. Your cute and I want to keep you, but you don’t really wanna stay for dinner.” He skirmed in my hand, and I made faces, trying to hang on to him without squishing his middle.

I think Jerry had more than a headache when he went back to his snug home in the structure.

Just then, Sam, the captain of another canoe, pulled alongside and handed me a small box. “It’s my fluky fly. Here, take it. It’s your lucky day.”
Ben grunted. “All she can catch are CUTE bluegill.”

“That’s why she needs this. It’s all the luck you need.” Sam said.
I opened the box. The ugliest fly I’d ever seen stared back at me. It was bigger than the fly that attraced Jerry’s attention. The last thing I wanted was a bigger fish to unhook.

“Thanks, Sam,” I said smiling and quickly snipping off my little yellow fly. I tied on fluky fly, carefully, so I wouldn’t lose it. Maybe Sam was joking, but he seemed unnaturally attached to his fishing equipment and I knew he’d want it back. There was a double hook on the end of this one, and it looked hand tied. And dangerous.

The river was still and it was getting late. I was hungry. Ben must have been hungry, or in need of more beer, because he sounded annoyed when he snapped, “You gonna row or what?”

“I’m fishing?” I said.
“FINE, then,” he said with a note of male one-up-man-ship in his voice.

I cast toward the shore, with a little more energy than I’d planned. Ben sighed. One of those “you cast like a girl” sighs. I pulled back, drew the line up, and cast again. Spot on, except for the weeds. In a moving canoe, I was just lucky I missed the low branches we were passing. The canoe jerked to the right as my pole bent toward the water. Not another fish, I thought. Fluky fly had not found a fish. It was stuck in the weeds. “I’ll never hear the end of this,” I warned myself as I tugged on the line. I tugged harder. Please, not this.

I gave it a hard pull and it came lose right away. I saw the eyes of the fly nanoseconds before it lodged itself in my cheek.

"I’ve made a bass of myself for the first time," I said out loud to know one in particular

Monday, April 24, 2006


In Italy, you will find a voluntary committee that investigates the claims of “quacks and gurus” and other so-called wizards that prey on unsuspecting victims [a.k.a. SUCKERS]. The Telefano Antiplagio can be reached at 338/83.85.999 or telefano@antiplagio.org if you suspect a dream interpreter, fortune teller, or someone selling magic games is a quack. But only in Italy, where the law forbids people to be hold the “job of quack.”

This committee esteems efforts to dispell paranormal hoaxes such as the reward offered by Houdini to anyone who could pass his keen eye for fraud. No one before his death or afterward has earned the reward. Open to all mediums of the world, the committee invites those who claim paranormal powers to call the "Telefono Antiplagio" (+393388385999 / +393388074704) or write at antiplagio@libero.it or: c.p. 389, mails box 9124 Cagliari (Italy). Telefono Antiplagio’s test "will be executed in front of a Committee composed by two professional conjurers, two priests, two journalists, a physique, a chemist, a psychiatrist, a notary and chaired by the prof. Giovanni Panunzio, founder of "Telefono Antiplagio."

Among the BEST KNOWN "quacks" investigated by the TA are the Scientology gurus. Evidently, TA does not believe the claims of L Ron Hubbard. The committee has also been called to verify if a hoax is being perpetrated in the occasion of weeping statues of Mary in Italy, specifically La Madonnina of Pantano. In the height of the controversary, Don Pablo, supporter of the canonization of Luisa Piccarreta of the Little Children of the Divine Will [Padre Pio’s followers], came to the aid of the statue. TA’s director has reportedly described methods by which such statues are made to cry.

In the end, perhaps an individual will believe what he/she wants to believe or what he/she needs to believe. Whether Telefono Antiplagio, Factnet, or the FBI finds evidence of a hoax or not, some people will not be persuaded. For in truth, the words of Mr. Barnum are applicable across the planet: "There’s a sucker born every minute and two to take him."

Friday, April 21, 2006

Not Coming to St. Louis?

The more often I see the promo for the Body Worlds exhibit, the more I want to see it. Or do I? Through the process of "plastination," a German scientist displays super-naked human bodies as objects d'art --bodies that he acquires from willing patrons who sign their bodies to him for use after their death. The body is then preserved, the skin is stripped away and the cadaver is posed "lifelike" for all to admire and study. Everything is visible. The muscles, organs, tendons, ligaments, and even bodies of a fetus in a pregnant woman are visible for those with a morbid curiosity to examine.

On the exhibit's web page, we are told, "Every human being is unique. Humans reveal their individuality not only through the visible exterior, but also through the interior of their bodies, as each body is distinctly different from any other.... It would be impossible to convey this anatomical individuality with models, for a model is nothing more than an interpretation. All models look alike and are, essentially, simplified versions of the real thing. The authenticity of the specimens, however, is fascinating and enables the observer to experience the marvel of the real human body. The exhibitions are thus dedicated to the individual interior face."

Today I am grateful for skin. The body's largest organ, I understand, is skin. Some of us have more of it than others; some of us are thick skinned and others are thin skinned, sensitive individuals wearing their hearts on their sleeves. And when we die our skin decomposes; unless you will your body to Gunther von Hagens, and everthing you've hidden all those years is exposed for friend, foe, and stranger to see in all its glory.

I missed the Chicago venue, but there is still time to see it in Denver, St. Paul, and Boston.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Writing suggestion: "I am from..." [Pat Corrigan read "I am from," by George Ela Lyon and we were asked to let it inspire us to start our piece with "I am from...". Note: Lyon was born and raised in Harlan, KY, just around the corner from the holler on which I raised my children in Pike County, KY. Her poem is worth going to her site to read]

From Understanding

I am from the front porch
where my grandmother used to sit
all day and watch the cars,
trucks and buses headed east on highway 40.
My first words, “See the bus,”
Front Porch language.

Grandma and I porch sat on cool evenings
that followed warm, St. Louis summer days
together, speaking the same language.
First her “see the bus?”
Then my “see the bus?”
We understood one another, grandma and I.
When she missed a bus
because she was staring into the small
round mirror in her hand
pinching the chin hairs out,
I would tell her, “see the bus?”
And she’d look up in reply, “see the bus?”

I learned a new language
when I left the front porch.
They taught me about arithmetic,
spelling, and diagramming sentences.
“See the bus” had one line across,
one diagonaly under bus,
and “you” was understood.

I understand more now
about traveling highways
and the value of time spent on the front porch.
I teach the language to my grandson,
out the window we look,
sitting together in an old rocking
chair that squeaks.
He likes trucks best
and I understand.
“Truck!” he exclaims. “Truck,” I echo.
And we wait, still, for another one.

He will go to school and learn another language.
Will I understand?
When he leaves the window and the rocking chair
and waves to me from the car

I’ll sit and wait, like grandma did,
counting the chin hairs as they grow back in.

This writing suggestion was a good one. I encourage you to try your own hand at it. Everyone in the group produced something worth saving. You don't have to make it a poem. Some writers wrote in prose style. Go ahead, look inside yourself and ask, "Where AM i from?" Send me your personal geography and permission to post it here, if you'd like.

Click on COMMENTS below to see where others are from.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

On the final evening of the Amherst Writers Group

Pat Corrigan suggests this writing exercise: THIRD suggestion--
imagine an article of clothing that you possess. Imagine it on a fictionalized character in a fictional story.

Every day at lunch, my husband walks at the mall with the women who work at his office. He’s an engineer, probably not much fun at the office, or so I had thought. But now I wonder.

I had not taken Leo's mall walking as a big deal. He was looking for exercise; the other engineers went out for lunch or like Leo, sat at their desks every day and ate from a brown bag. When he heard the women talking about the mall walking, he invited himself into the group. He said they didn’t mind.

It took him awhile to adjust to their constant chatting as they walked. After a few weeks, he didn't mention the flurry of conversation to me, but described various objects in the shop windows that he found interesting. Until the mall walking began, Leo never entered a store unless I dragged him there.

I’ve walked with him before. He is more interested in bridges, architectural structures, and geologic protusions then anything I have to say. So, I imagined he had to resign himself to the sound of endless chatter for the sake of exercise.

One of the mall walkers was turning 40 and the ladies decided to go out to lunch. They told Leo they wouldn’t be walking that day as the girls were going out to celebrate. He was hurt. Crushed. No mall walking that day. How could they leave him out. He protested. They said, Well, if you wear a dress you can go.

When he told me the story, like a kindergartener’s pathetic tale of how the kids on the playground never picked him for their team, I was sympathetic. Not an ounce of jealousy. I suggested he wear one of my jumpers at lunch that day. This engineer who is no fun at work said, “Will it fit me?”

“It’s a jumper,” I said. “It would fit three of you.”

“I’ll do it!”

The next day he packed the dress in a bag and set off for the office. At lunch time, he closed his door and donned the jumper over his pants. He took off his pants.

I don’t have to imagine what this looked like—a 6', bearded, 155 pound man in a denim jumper usually worn by middle school teachers. I don’t have to imagine it because when the walker brigade saw him coming down the hall to join them for lunch, they were stunned. Not so stunned or shocked that they did not all at once scream, “Someone get the camera.”

It’s a great photo. I keep it framed right next to the photo of Leo wearing the lime green shift with the cheffon layering from the waist down, blue eyeshadow, lots of bling bling, bright red wig, crimson rouge, and orange lipstick proudly displaying the Miss America Banner from his shoulder to his waist. I’m the one in the First Runner’s Up banner standing next to him.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Last night's WARM UP
Pat Corrigan gives us the writing suggestion to begin with
"I’m in..." or choose to begin the story with "I’m out."

I’m in the middle of life. Of course I can’t be sure it’s the middle. If I live longer than the average woman in the 21st century, I am still at the beginning. The other side of that coin is living a short, happy life which places me nearer My God to Thee than I really want to admit. I’ve always been average in everything else, height, weight, intelligence, socially, with an average 2.5 children—if you count the miscarriage—so, I have no evidence to support not being in the middle of life. Mid-life.

The only significance to knowing I’m at mid-life is to recognize the mid-life crisis. What would the average mid-life crisis bring? At this moment, I can only think that just knowing my life is half over is crisis enough. There are dreams to live, gardens to step into, trails to hike, oceans to kayak, books to read, to write for that matter, and no time at all for dieting and wasting time on cleaning.

We who have reached the mid-life mark know something about life. It isn’t as long as you think it is. In youth, there is the inflation of time. I remember when every day was long and nights seemed longer still. Naps dragged the day out further—I thought naptime would never end. In one day I could explore the Amazon drainage creek in the woods adjacent to our backyard. Wander through the dark endless tunnels of county sewers that invited us in on long sweltering hot summer days. Called home to safety by mothers who forbid such discoveries, our imaginations exploded in song, dance, dolls, zoo keeping, and roller derby marathons in a basement of unlimited proportions. The hours ticked by and time stood still.

I still don’t want to take a nap, but not because it drags out the day. Inflation of time has ended. Naps shorten the day by half and nothing gets done. Days grow shorter by the year. From birth to 16 takes an interminably long time to pass, and from driving age to drinking age takes even longer. The next day you’re thirty, your children are a starting school.

As the children grow into driving and drinking, time seems to slow down. It seems once again like the days of exploration have returned. The excitement builds, will they return home safely in the family car from the football game? The night is lengthened with worry. Will they get into the college of their choice? The year is drawn out with heavy financial obligations. Will they ever willingly eat salmon and broccoli? But time freezes as we wait for them to get off the phone and come to the table for dinner.

One day, the day near the middle of my life, I looked at the clock as it raced past noon. Last time I looked it was nine in the morning. Where did the day go? A visit from the adorable grandchild is never long enough, and even his naps are over in a blink of time. Already he’s walking and soon he will be two. Yesterday he didn’t exist.

In the checkout line at the s’market, the checker exclaims that she can’t b’lieve “it’s already Easter” to the woman in front of me who is buying chocolate eggs. No one can believe it is true. The date on my check confirms the fact. Tomorrow will be Christmas. All the people in line are living in the middle of their lives or beyond. The line is longer than we have time to live.

Here, in the middle of life, time rushes by like the rain down the gutter in last night’s storm. It’s spring rain, followed by summer draught, fallen leaves, and melting snow. Seasons I know well by now. My own seasons of dry skin, changing hair color, and less energy measure time in the middle of life.

Heads or tails? A friend calls to tell me that another friend, barely forty, has two weeks to live — cancer. The other side of the coin. We don’t know where mid-life begins. We do know for all of us who look to the future that there is not enough time.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

T.S. Eliot - remembered
from Hollow Men

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o'clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

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