Category Archives: Guest Bloggers

The Puzzle by Betsy Roman

The Puzzle

Our nation is raging, crumbling and burning. Tattered shreds of decency and ashes of logic impede the understanding we need in order to pull ourselves from the pits of our mindsets.  Every one of us attempting to survive this mania of confusion wishes it were different. The puzzle will never make sense until polarized opinions are released from their blind bunkers and given not just an honest hearing, but a sincere listening; not only from others, but from within each of our stubborn centers of self. 

There are valid reasons why so many cultural pockets of our nation tenaciously cling to security blankets of identity, explode from cannons of generational inequities, or mute the sounds of desperate cries for survival. We understand our local worlds through the filters of our limited experiences, both a gift and a curse. We internalize what we have been taught and defiantly defend tradition, because exclusion is painful.

Where can we go to untangled the riddles of power, nightmares of annihilation, and twisted normalcy in times of lunacy?  Where is there room for everyone to see and be seen, to hear and be heard? How do we bring our rich national diversity into common contact with each other for the explicit promise of democratic law— of, by and for the people— all the people? It is time to engage the conversations in which solutions replace blame. 

The Bigger Picture:  Each of us is one among many; each perspective only a piece of the national portrait; each country its own continuum of historical conditions; each continent sculpted by forces of scientific formula; and each planet a unique speck in the whole universal scheme of things. Visiting the Bigger Picture is a mind-altering experience. It is also where we learn how everything and everyone are connected, what is needed from each of us and how we can contribute our gift of self toward the benefit of all. 

Each of us holds a unique piece in the Bigger Picture puzzle. Those who discover how their piece fits, contribute clarity to our humanity; those who hold fast to their puzzle piece render our understanding incomplete and inaccurate. We can do better than we imagine and we can be crueler than we admit.

Betsy Roman stepped out from her storybook childhood in the Northeast, remarkably unprepared for the maze of mid twentieth-century mixed messages and upheavals. While training to become a medical illustrator, a profession on the brink of obsolescence, she met her future husband working in a hospital lab sketching autopsies in the morgue. Within a year of their marriage, her husband was drafted into the Army Medical Corps and sent to Vietnam, while Betsy managed an orthopedic office in San Francisco. Being an officer’s wife at the Presidio and protesting the war during the Summer of Love seemed like a perfectly normal dichotomy of the times. Upon the safe return of her husband, they were reassigned to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where Betsy assisted in physical therapy and sang the only female part in the play, The Fantastiks— inside the federal penitentiary. Travel into the unknown became a way of life.

After settling in Los Angeles, Betsy attended to the education of their two children, as well as tutoring at-risk teens, teaching adult literacy, and becoming a liberal religious educator with the Unitarian-Universalist Association. With all good fortune, the family survived earthquakes, fires, riots, and Hollywood. Her move to the Napa Valley also brought her back to the acute care hospital setting as a medical transcriptionist until it, too, was rendered obsolete. 

As a faithful journal keeper, letter writer, and poet, Betsy began excising stories from a life of disruptions, infusing them with significance and stitching them with humor. She has written award-winning fiction for the Jessamyn West Creative Writing Contest in Napa. Her granddaughters continue to keep her happily disrupted, and growing vegetables keep her grounded.

#VOTE2020

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THE COVID CHRONICLES by Aletheia Morden

THE COVID CHRONICLES – BETWEEN THE FIRES 9-26-20, 3:00 a.m. Northern California

wallpaper cave.com

I tell you what’s changed—I see stars out there in the night sky. How long has it been since I’ve noticed stars? It’s not as if they weren’t there before. They didn’t go anywhere. They’ve been there since before the dinosaurs. And they went extinct a long time ago. Why are we so short-sighted and arrogant to think that we as a species won’t go extinct? We’re doing our darndest to make that happen. 

Sitting by the open kitchen window, what a luxury to feel the cool night air. How long since I’ve felt that? Like a kiss on my skin, a breath of what’s real to remind me that all is not lost—yet. My orchids are dying. They live on air. Like me they cannot breathe in this toxic smoke that blankets us from the wildfires. Get ready for the next round, they warn us. We’re not done with fire season and it’s heating up out there; three-digit temperatures by Sunday.

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It was clear enough to see the moon tonight. From inside my self-quarantined apartment, I bathed myself in moonlight, the same moonlight that shone down on the dinosaurs and all the sorry civilizations of man since.

There’s always been conflict. Think of the Spanish marching into the “new world” and colonizing by killing. There have always been peaceful groups; they’re the ones that suffer. Those Europeans came, saw, killed and conquered. The Mayans and the Aztecs weren’t exactly bloodless societies. One brutal outfit just fought another brutal outfit. What for? Gold, land, possessions, greed. USA society’s all about money, land, possessions, greed. Some people came here just so they could breathe. That’s disappearing. And what are we replacing it with? Money, land, possessions, greed. And air we cannot breathe. 

Mother Nature’s giving us a smack: Air we cannot breathe safely. There’s a bomb floating around in it. Where it lands, nobody knows—until we sicken and die. 

Plus ca change, plus c’est la mểme chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Life’s a crap shoot. No wonder gambling’s so popular. We think we can beat the odds, and we never stop trying, even though there’s only one ending. Try not to think of death as failure. We are too much of this world at the moment. Let’s go back to the real we so often took for granted and hardly noticed: it was so commonplace. 

The night air that softly and luxuriously pours over me as I write is filtered by a beautiful tree outside my window. Birds used to live there. I have not heard birdsong in weeks. They used to be everywhere. Two weeks ago I was on a telephone call to my daughter, staring at the tree outside the window as we talked. A little bird came flying in and landed on a branch for a second or two before flying away again. I got so excited. “There’s a bird!” I exclaimed. “I haven’t seen one in over three weeks!”

Bird Painting flickr.com

“They go somewhere safe at time like this,” my daughter said. Of course they do. All animals hunker down for safety, even the human ones.

But someone was drinking from the water dish I keep on the front porch. I started leaving water out during a prior heatwave for all the errant cats that saunter through the yard, dogs that step off the sidewalk for some refreshment during their daily walk, the raccoons and god-knows-what other creatures who wander about during the night. I hadn’t seen much of any animal life since COVID hit, except people walking their dogs—cats they keep indoors, now. So, who was drinking the water I so faithfully replenished every day to keep it free of ash? Some days that dish stayed full. No one was venturing out at all.

And then, one evening as I walked downstairs to place a clean doormat by the front door, I saw a little fat squirrel come bounding up the garden path. I felt overjoyed at the sight of him, my first squirrel in weeks! And he looked so healthy. We used to have squirrels aplenty in this town. They’d move around on the squirrel highway, running along the neighborhood power lines, jumping from tree to tree. Since my landlord  cut the big tree down in the front yard last year, I’ve seen squirrels less and less. They used to run up and down the tree trunk taunting the cats, “catch me if you can.” But now, they stay more in their hiding places.

A small flock of Canada geese flew by my window yesterday, a much smaller flock than usual. But still, a flock of migrating geese! What joy to see them in a V-shape against the sky.

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This is the real I cling to as an antidote to all the chicanery of politics in Washington. As Rome burned, Nero fiddled. These days, he’s playing golf. 

Thanks to designshrub.com and artist Katarzyna Oleska

Aletheia Morden

Aletheia’s had many jobs: teenage store detective. wine harvester in France, Hollywood P.A. and film reviewer for underground newspapers amongst others. Much volunteer work, too, including tutoring homeless children, arranging for NASA to bring their space mobile for a day of fun to inner city kids, and currently Foundation Vice Chair of an art and rare book collection. She lives at the top end of the Bay and looks out at Mount Tamalpais across the water.

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Covid Clyde by Donald Turner

Dear Alfred E. Neuman,

Please sit down. I bring bad news. Clyde died. COVID got ‘im. COVID killed Clyde.

As you may recall, Clyde was a racist, a philanderer, and a tax cheat. His other faults included lying, cheating workers, carelessness during pandemics, and narcissism.

By the grace of the almighty God, Clyde eventually forsook his hell-bent journey to perdition. After his conversion to Christ, Clyde served as an example of what God can do for a wretched soul. All over the world Clyde’s testimony brought sinners to Jesus. Clyde accompanied various evangelists including Rev. Billy Smores Graham Cracker and Rev. Hell-Fire Furness.

During a recent board meeting a member suggested you, Alfred, as a replacement for the late Clyde.

In this era of fear and uncertainty, your motto: What, me worry?, may be a calming blessing to many.

Alfred, you can Make America Grin Again. Before responding, please study www.ReprobateReplacments.org  

Sincerely,

John Smith, Chairman, Committee to Replace Clyde

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Don Turner 2Donald Turner retired to Angwin, CA. after 29 years of aerospace computer programming in California for the Navy at China Lake/Ridgecrest, for Northrop Grumman at El Segundo, & for Boeing at Huntington Beach. In retirement Donald keeps busy with writing, gardening, exploring the internet, attempting stock market profit, mixing music with Bitwig, and making his two acres more fire resistant. He is divorced with two daughters and four grand-daughters.

After graduating in 1966 from Pacific Union College, Donald taught high-school math, physics and earth science at Fletcher, NC. from 1966-69, then math at PUC prep in 1969-70.  He holds a  Master of Arts degree in  Physics from University of Wisconsin,  Milwaukee and a Master  of Science in  Electrical Engineering from University of California, Davis. He represents his age in non-curvy digits.

What me worry?

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Predictions of Election Failure by Leona Rice

tonywastall.com
I need to put my energy behind getting civil liberties.
Our party’s candidate does not excite me.
My one vote will not make a difference.
 
My $20 bucks is nothing compared to the millions the rich donate.
I have no time to help right now.
Give to one place, they bombard you with requests.
 
Nothing will change for me.
I need to concentrate on my family.
I need to focus on my work.
 
Politicians are all the same.
I don’t get involved in politics.
I can’t believe either side.
 
Let’s see who endorses them.
I never bother with voting.
I don’t know how to get involved.
 
It’s too early.
It’s too late.
I’ll just sit this one out.
 
He is “old school.”
She has an uppity stare.
They aren’t attracting the young.
 
I have enough with Covid and fires.
I’m too depressed to function.
          I’ll move to Canada.
Former California Assembly Member, Leona Egeland Rice

During her three terms in the Assembly, Leona Egeland Rice successfully championed important legislation to improve children’s welfare, public health, and access to healthcare across the state.

A native of Tucson, Arizona, Leona came to California to earn a master’s degree in education at San Jose State University. She stayed in California as she began her family and her career as a science teacher. *She first became personally involved in the public sphere through her instrumental role in the campaign to build a new sewage treatment plan to prevent ocean pollution. *After three terms in the State Assembly, she became Chief Deputy Director for the California Department of Human Services in L.A. Later she returned to Northern California to work with The Doctors Company, a physician-owned insurance company. She served as Senior Vice President of Government Relations as well as Executive Director of the company’s charitable foundation. As The Doctors Company expanded beyond California, Mrs. Rice developed partnerships with other state governments. Furthermore, she championed the Corporate Charitable program and implemented an Employee Charitable Gift Matching program.*Now Leona lives in the Napa Valley with her husband and writes about her amazing life.

(Photo by Sergio Flores/Getty Images)

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United We Stand by Cliff Zyskowski

 

Certain days in our lives leave a permanent imprint, like a hot poker brand on cattle, a tattoo, charged with total recall, like it happened just yesterday.

United We Stand

9/11 I’m visiting clinical sites in Vallejo. My psych tech students are completing their internships at an out patient treatment center for folks with dual diagnosis. Autism, bi-polar, schizophrenia, developmental delays, head injuries: the students get to experience a patch work mental health quilt of many varied sizes, shapes and colors.

Ziggy cries out, “Why did they do this?” as we all watch the horror play out on the big screen TV in the day hall that morning. He has Down Syndrome. He is sensitive. He is a caring, loving human being laid to waste by tears as the story of the epic destruction of those twin towers unfolds.

Several of the participants begin to pace the perimeter of the room, their anxiety building, their coping strategies pushed to the brink. A staff person ushers Artie into a side conference room.

“Breathe Artie. Your breath like the ocean, remember? Breathe in the relaxation, breathe out the tension. You can handle this,” she implores. He’s hyperventilating, sweating, eyes open wide, piercing, pupils dilated, biting his hand, rocking back and forth at an increasing rate. She pages the off-site nurse for a PRN medication.

“I knew those Commie Pinko Fags were coming to get us. I heard them scheming last night. Their time has come. Our time is up…we’re next,” exclaims Josh.

Josh has paranoid schizophrenia. He’s hiding under a chair in the far corner of the room. Silently screaming in his mind’s eye, rubbing his head along the underside lip of the chair.

Mitch, the director, enters the room with authority. Turns off the TV. “Break up into groups of five. Today’s discussion: addressing our greatest fears. What is it that scares us? How do we cope with what we can’t control? How have we overcome obstacles in our past? How do we muster the courage and conviction to face our fears head-on? Meet back here at 10:30 before break.” 

Divided We Fall

July, 1966 Hot, muggy, Mid-western summer day. No breeze off the Lake. Mom rounds up us four kids from the yard into the house early before lunch. Me and my best friend Vinnie had planned on riding our Schwinn bikes down Rumble Hill to visit the old man with his roost of homing pigeons.  Not today.

“The blacks are marching past Portage Park to Norwood Park. They say 800 people will pass by our neighborhood and walk right past St. Monica’s church down the block from us. We’re all staying inside. People been throwing rocks at the marchers. I won’t let any of you kids get hurt. We’re not causing any trouble.” Not today. She looks worried, scared, pale. We obey without a fuss.

There are no black folks living in our neighborhood. This is the summer of the Chicago Freedom Movement. Martin Luther King is marching for equal housing rights. I’ve never even met a black person. Dad says when they move in, we move out ‘cuz, “They cause the property values to crash.”

“But isn’t your favorite baseball player Ernie Banks, a black guy?” I ask him.

No comment.

While Mom shakes Jiffy Pop with one hand and stirs the cherry Kool-Aid with the other, my curiosity runs rampant. I sneak downstairs and climb out thru the basement window. I hear hundreds of voices singing in the distance. This Little Light of Mine, We Shall Overcome, the voices gather strength, rising louder and more boisterous as the throng approaches the corner of Nottingham and Carmen Avenues and the steps leading to the entrance of St. Monica’s Church. Nobody out in the streets but them. Vinnie’s mom, Mrs. Funsch, peers out between the drapes of her front room window. I’m hiding in the bushes across the street from the Rectory. MLK, the man himself, approaches the church entrance. He silences the crowd by raising his right hand, palm open to the sky, as he surveys his followers with steely determination. Gesturing with both arms raised to the heavens, he gets down on one knee and says, “Let us pray.”

“Almighty Lord,” he cries out. “Hear our prayer,” respond the marchers, all genuflected on one knee.  “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, thy kingdom come thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”

Heads bowed to the earth, prostrated on one knee, the congregation recites the Our Father…the same prayer I recite every night before bed. I find myself praying along, flushed out of the hiding brush, bent on one knee, “. . . forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, Amen.”

They pray, they feel, they sing, they kneel—just like us. My cup runneth over with faith in humanity.

Smile a Little Smile

Fall 1969 Summer of love passes. The annual 8th grade fall dance held in the basement of St. Monica’s rectory. I’m a nerd. One of three classmates wearing horn-rimmed glasses. Teacher’s pet. Too smart for my own good. But I made the basketball team. Tom Kowalski felt sorry for me and gave a fellow Polack a chance. In class, I sit behind Joanne Arcaro, 8th grade cheerleader. I whisper her a few answers during the math exams. Sister Felice proctors the tests. She is deaf.  

Joanne believes in me somehow. When it’s time for the last slow dance, she comes up to me and grabs my arm without a word, pulls me across the room to the middle of the dance floor. The 45 drops onto the Magnavox turntable playing Smile a Little Smile for Me. This isn’t one of those tightly held slow dances. Sister Jeanette wouldn’t allow such behavior. For the first time, I feel like a man—a woman asked me to be her dance partner. I find a cure for my case of nerd fever.

tenor.com

For the first verse, we alone take center stage. She looks straight into my eyes, smiles, as we rock back and forth in unison to the song’s chorus, breathing as one, the class nerd making waves with the babe of his dreams. Loving kindness endlessly travels through time captured by a memory.

Orange sky over Bay Area

Birds, by the thousands, drop dead from the orange.
  Ravens chant Nevermore.
A robin picks at a toasted worm, upended
  from the parched terrain.
Bees labor back to the hive with ash-laden pollen.
Sunflowers strain to lift their heads to the sky.
  There is no sun.

My mask blocks the virus, filters the smoke,
 hides the shame we face:
  Profit over Planet.
“They muddy the waters to make it seem deep.”
What legacy will we leave our children?
“You guys just stood around while
watching the West Coast burn?”

Who will unite ranchers, developers,
  conservationists?
Who is prepared to build a coalition,
a consensus among polarities, concerning issues of
Black Lives Matter,
Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
gun control,
global warming?

“We are the first generation
to feel the impact of climate change
and the last generation
that can do something about it.”

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

              Save the Earth,
             Value its worth,
             Before we dread
         The sky bleeding red.

 September 9th, 2020 The Day the Sky Bled Orange

Cliff Zyskowski
playing John Hiatt’s Have a Little Faith at Sonoma’s Farmer’s Market

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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The Virus and US by Russell Hvolbek

Miasma—www.stufftoblowyourmind.com

The Virus and US

So, now, a miasma here.

Not only over there, somewhere

backward, but here too in our towns,

gleaning away the soft jostling of

American life; a little money

made and spent, children maturing,

mothers and fathers dying of old age, normal

as it should be, has been, is

normal no more.

The virus roils, exposes our naivety:

Humans have no more purchase of earth

than a virus.

 

 

 

Meet Russell Hvolbek:

Russell Hvolbek is an intellectual historian with a PhD from The University of Chicago. He has written three books, the most recent, Humans: What We Are and Why We Exist, argues that language and the historical fields they produce, brought humans beyond the grooves of nature. Humans came into existence when they became able to name themselves. Humans are a language-historical creation. He is concerned that the utilitarian realm of facts and data have so overwhelmed us, we can no longer ponder what we are.

Russell now finds that people opposed to having to think through difficult ideas are more likely to engage them if they are presented as poetry. He now writes more poetry than prose.
Contact: Russell Hvolbek 818-746-0757 rhhone@hotmail.com

 

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My Lockdown by Dina Corcoran

Back by popular demand and coronavirus be damned! I’m thrilled to have Dina Corcoran as today’s guest blogger. Dina’s work inspires me to find the beauty and good in any situation—excuse me while I put on IZ’s CD and contemplate rejoining my “treasures” when the pandemic is over.

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My Lockdown

Old Toll Road is not a busy road under normal conditions, but under this lockdown it appears abandoned.  Alan and I walk it every day, and as we round a bend, we come upon a field of lupines and poppies busy being glorious—no one to notice them, except for us. 

A face appears, smiling a greeting from on high.  It’s the bee lady, up in the apple tree manipulating a pair of loppers as she prunes, surrounded by a few friendly bees. That’s it.  The only contact we have on the whole walk.

Back at home, the warm gentleness of IZ’s Hawaiian music soothes me.  I play it on Spotify to make it all go away—and it almost works.  IZ’s soft voice rolls over me like waves of the ocean.  When the waves break and calm down again, peace will reign.

My daughter Kim comes for weekly visits.  We sit outside on the deck, fifteen feet apart to maintain social distancing, and chat. She doesn’t even think of coming inside the house.  An attorney, she still has cases at her job; others at her firm have been let go, and she gets their work. This is sad for them, but a relief for her.  She can continue making the payments on the house she just bought. She enjoys working at home and being with her twin sons who must continue their college classes now via remote learning.

My son is an “essential” worker in Southern California for Cal-Trans.  He keeps the freeways functioning. With most everyone off the roads, the speed-demons have taken over, and its common for drivers to go 95 m.p.h. and crash into things. His mother worries about him hanging from light poles or overhangs, fixing the electricity, with this going on.  But he continues to get a paycheck.

Since we are over sixty-five, Alan and I are allowed to Email our grocery list to Cal-Mart, charge it, and have our purchases loaded into the car behind the store. No social interaction. When we get home, we don disposable gloves to unpack our supplies so we can wipe them down with a bleach solution. (Fresh produce gets scrubbed in the sink with water.) As they sit in the sun to dry, we notice that certain items have been left off the list—there’s never any toilet paper.

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My friends are tucked away like treasure to be saved for later. Except for the occasional phone call, we don’t see each other anymore. This virus! Gisela sits alone in a big house, since her husband died. She is saved by her German inclination to abide by a housekeeping schedule. Tuesday is laundry day. Every day has its own obligation.  Her week has structure.​​ ​Minna, from my book club, sips wine and reads Proust. 

th-5We all cope in our own way.

I write.

 

 

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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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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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