Category Archives: Guest Bloggers

Hug The One You’re With by Cliff Zyskowski

We’re all going a little stir-crazy under stay-at-home lockdown. Read how one author, musician and yogi manages. Please give a virtual hand (after purelling) to Cliff Zyskowski and his stalwart trees.

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Hug The One You’re With

I shudder in place and need a hug. My wife and son both go off to their essential work duties. I ponder the idea of going out to see who else can’t stay at home, alone, all day—for another minute. I freeze. I see them. Two vultures circling above my yard, on the lookout for vulnerable senior citizens on the loose. Won’t the kombucha, crystals and sage smudge protect me against all calamities?

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I’ve already used the new bidet three times this morning, twice just for fun. Roaming the yard searching for direction, I’m pulled by some magnetic force, a gravitational light saber of mythic propulsion. The rustling branches open wide to welcome my embrace. We hug, Oak and I. It’s taller than my son, not as soft as my wife, it’s girth more than I can wrap my arms around.th-7.jpeg

I feel. Listen. Gather. Hang…on to the laden wisdom. Stability. Security. Sanctity.

“Thanks for not chopping me down five summers ago because of how I shaded your Doughboy pool causing the water to stay cold all summer. Remember how the arborist said I was a Heritage Valley Oak and you needed a permit to level me? He lied to save me. Pool’s gone, I’m still here. Good move.”

I’ve since built a deck under its canopy. We visit twice a day—when no one’s looking—before I feed the cats, the tree feeds me.

Moving on to Plum, I hold its decaying branches with a weathered hand. Aging together. It sends out suckers from its root structure. A proliferation of white blossoms announces spring’s arrival. Precious few fruits to savor at harvest.

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“Sorry to prune you so severely last fall. Had to make space for Fig. We burned your fragrant branches on special occasions this winter. The wood paired well with butternut squash soup. Our downwind neighbor noticed.” Plum nods a whispered gesture.

th-3.jpegI make my way over to Sycamore in the front yard. Majestic. Our giving tree. Bark peels off its trunk like dead skin after a sunburn. The rope swing still hangs after 20 years of joy-giving. Your skin grown around the intrusion of thick twine as an afterthought. Parks closed, neighborhood kids clamor forth, waiting six feet apart, for a chance to swing on the only game in town. I vigilantly purell the rope after each use. New pandemic verb; purell: the act of cleansing. Dirt re-appears under the worn grass beneath the redwood plank seat, a sign of the laughter and play only children can muster these days, missing since my boys are men now. Like a scab on the knee in the summers of youth, the bare patch of grass gets picked at, stomping, braking, gliding little feet, pumping the air, digging the earth, gathering flight in Sycamore’s shade.th-2.jpeg

“I’ve been meaning to thank you for curving your new sidewalk twenty years ago around my surface roots. Sorry my feeders send out water seekers into your sewer line. We had a four-year drought, remember? When you stopped watering the lawn, I had to do something. The rotor-rooter you rent clears the line once a year. Like spring cleaning, we can work together on this. You love the shaded parking spaces!” Wink, branch wave, pollen-filled seed bomb drops at my feet. “The runny nose I send your way clears the sinuses of the plague, you know.”

A conciliatory embrace…who’s looking?th-5.jpeg

I grab an extra early-morning hug from Valley Oak. The crescent moon and Venus have long since set beyond the fog’s horizon. A mourning bird sings a harkening tale of day-break. Will this be the day the numbers of those infected have flattened? Parks re-open perchance?

th-1.jpegWhere have all the songbirds gone? Like the last Dr. Seuss Truffula Tree. Sing on. As nature calls my heart open, my arms welcome a restoration consideration.

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Cliff Zyskowski is a retired psychiatric technician and a Chicago native now living the good life in wine country. When not hashing out a long-winded memoir, he plays the piano for inspiration. His work has appeared in The Bohemian and The Sonoma Sun.

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Filed under Aging, Autobiographical Writing, COVID19, Guest Bloggers

My Happy Crusade

 

I am thrilled to introduce my followers to a new friend and writer I met at this year’s Left Coast Crime conference. Anne Louise Bannon saved my voice with menthol drops during Author Speed-Dating, where we presented our books to almost 200 readers. (I’d say she was a lifesaver, but they were Hall’s.) Later, after the conference went on the chopping block of coronavirus, Anne Louise saved my sanity (I couldn’t get my flight changed) at the bar, where we flirted with the handsome bartender and discovered we have in common  a taste for  Virusvodkatinis and Long Good Bye Gimlets.

Today, Anne Louise Bannon is helping us build a better story during lockdown with her Happy Crusade.   Let’s give her a warm welcome!

 

 

INTRODUCING ME AND MY LATEST CRUSADE

By Anne Louise Bannon

When Ana Manwaring stopped by my blog last month [https://annelouisebannon.com/ana-manwaring-on-writing/], she asked me to come by here for a visit. So, here I am.

I met Ana at the aborted Left Coast Crime conference last March. We both got to participate in one major event, the Author Speed-Dating. Basically, we authors go from table to table, and offer up a two-minute pitch to the readers at each table. I knew it was going to be intense as hell because I’d been at a similar event for winemakers a couple years before.

You see, I’m also a wine blogger with my husband. The blog, OddBallGrape.com [https://oddballgrape.com], is on an extended hiatus for now. But a couple years ago, we were more active and at a conference for wine bloggers, we tasted while winemakers went from table to table and poured in two-minute pitches. With the Author Speed-Dating, I was looking forward to being on the other side of the table.

I am a pretty confident public speaker, which means I appreciate the value of rehearsal. Ana, who would also be presenting that morning, caught me muttering my pitch to myself, and came over and gave me another chance to rehearse. I may have mentioned that I was a touch nervous (which one should be – it keeps you on your toes). What a sweet offering! I did, of course, then remembered my manners, and heard her pitch, as well. It was wonderfully dramatic – just enough tongue in cheek for the occasion, but gave a lovely sense of the more dramatic work she was presenting.

So, we got to talking afterward, exchanged contact information, and we both have dates for a drink when we land in the other’s territory. Assuming we ever get off lockdown, that is.

Which brings me to the main reason I wanted to write about Ana’s act of kindness. You see, as scary as things are, it helps me to feel better when I can do something nice for someone else. Also, at a recent Zoom meeting, I pointed out that happy or funny stuff often helps me deal with the more dire events of the day. The idea that we’re helpless in the face of being stuck at home as the headlines get worse and worse is not the way it really is. There are things we can do, including being present to somebody whose anxiety levels have hit the ceiling. We can look at Mary Tyler Moore re-runs for a good laugh to restore our spirits. We can write about our scary feelings and turn them into a really, really powerful story.

At that same meeting, somebody asked for some happy stuff to read. What I’m proposing:  in the comments here, you share books that make you happy for one reason or another. Admittedly, what constitutes happy stuff will vary from person to person. Some folks might love a good horror story, with the return to order making them feel a lot better about the scary stuff we’re facing. Me? Not so much. I want to laugh, but that’s me. The idea is to discover new faves and maybe stretch ourselves a little, if that helps. Authors, here’s a chance to help your friends.

Like my friend Carol Louise Wilde, who has a wonderful series called the Nagaro Chronicles. It starts with Gift of Chance. It’s technically a fantasy because it doesn’t take place in the real world as we know it, but there’s no magic. The story is about a young man whose escape from political intrigue and those who would control him forces him on the journey to his true destiny. It’s not exactly funny, but it’s a rip, roaring good yarn, and that makes me feel good, too. Oh, and Ana Manwaring has some lovely thrillers, too.

But it’s your turn. What’s your happy stuff?

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Anne Louise Bannon is an author and journalist who wrote her first novel at age 15. Her journalistic work has appeared in Ladies’ Home Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Wines and Vines, and in newspapers across the country. She was a TV critic for over 10 years, founded the YourFamilyViewer blog, and created the OddBallGrape.com wine education blog with her husband, Michael Holland. She is the co-author of Howdunit: Book of Poisons, with Serita Stevens, as well as author of the Freddie and Kathy mystery series, set in the 1920s,  the Operation Quickline Series and the Old Los Angeles series, set in the 1870s. Her most recent title is Sad Lisa. She and her husband live in Southern California with an assortment of critters. Visit her website at AnneLouiseBannon.com, and look for her latest release:

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Link to books: https://annelouisebannon.com/fiction/

Editor’s note:

I’m currently enjoying, Death of the Zanjero, Book 1 of the Old Los Angeles series, set in 1870, the time ranchers and farmers paid the zanjero for rights to access water. I heard the pitch at Author Speed-Dating, “When life was cheap and water could cost you everything.”

When Burt Rivers’s body floats up out of the irrigation ditch, or zanja,  winemaker and healing woman Maddie Wilcox must find out who killed him, a chase that will tax her intellect, her soul and her very belief in humanity before she’s done.

 

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Filed under Books, COVID19, Guest Bloggers, Inspiration