Pedestrian – Photo Challenge

I like this one a lot, and so decided to put it here, also. This is the last week of “Introduction to Japanese Poetry”, and I’m really enjoying it.

asian lady beetle

Pedestrian at the Crosswalk

cross-branch travel
Asian lady beetle on foot
a common sight

air travel has appeal
but no snacks are served

Copyright © 2017-10-04, by Elizabeth W. (Lizl) Bennefeld.

Written in response to WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Pedestrian.

 

Graveside memories

photograph of a family photo montage

family photographs

Remembering my parents’ graveside military services as the months progress toward first anniversaries. A year ago, plus a few weeks, my mother entered the hospital, and then into hospice care for two months before her death. Father followed her perhaps ten weeks later.

Two years previous, on September 30, my youngest sister died. She also was in the military. I expect that her son Jesse received the flag from her funeral.

Actually, all three memorial services were filled with crowds of family, friends, townspeople, many stories, much laughter, and overflowing love. As the concrete memories of those events fade in the aloneness of the years that follow, such reminders are blessings.

My remaining sister mentioned in a recent letter the memory of our mother and father sneaking off from the family room for a while to spend time alone with each other, when my sister was young. A reminder of the happiness of our family life and growing up in our family.

I recently woke up from a dream (this week, I think) having just seen my (much younger) mother walking out of and away from the woodworking shop that Al and I are building in the back yard, this summer (and autumn and most likely winter, also). Mom was wearing her favorite red t-shirt with the embroidery on it, which she herself had added, and her blue shorts, and when she looked at me, she was smiling. And so, with the continuing loss, there is also continuing joy.

snow-laden graves
memorial service programs
their photo montage

folded flags, spent cartridges
their ashes…my shattered heart

Copyright © 2017-09-29, by Elizabeth W. Bennefeld.

I am discovering all over again how much writing about the losses in my life helps with the healing process. Happy memories surface, again, and I can think about our shared past…and the many years mostly not shared. All is understood, now, and where there is understanding, there is forgiveness. I look forward to that, whether it’s literal or only a figure of speech.

In its own shadow

The tanka practice in week three of the workshop continues. This is one of the practice poems that I think I will not submit to the workshop leader; it feels like just an extended haiku. I like the flower, though. Seems as though I need a photograph, or at least a picture in my mind’s eye, in order to get started. And I’d always thought that I’m not a “visual” person.

yellow california poppy, its leaves casting shadows on the petals

In its Own Shadow

shadow leaves
brown on gold petals
celebrate color
poppy flowers bask
in the summer sun

Copyright © 2017-09-27, by Elizabeth Wicker Bennefeld.

 

Everyday Inspiration: Poetry Workshop

Beginning on Monday, 11 September, and continuing for four weeks, I am taking part in an online poetry workshop: Introduction to Japanese Poetry. It is a “hands-on”, writing workshop, which I expect to enjoy immensely. I’ve a book by the instructor, Naomi Wakan: Haiku: One Breath Poetry, which I have put aside for the time being, while I am working the workshop exercises.

 

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 19: Roundup of Great Reads

Perhaps not so much great “reads” in every case. I do enjoy looking at photographs of the out-of-doors and the creatures that live there.

Belinda Grover Photography: Belinda Grover has a particularly nice photograph of a hoverfly on a plant leaf here. I love taking photographs of the hoverflies in my garden, and I was taken with hers.

I am fascinated with the works of art at Golnaran Art, and have been for years! On this page: “There is no fear to leave, when you are ready to get lost.”

I cannot leave out Mara Eastern’s blog. Her photos in particularly set me to writing off-the-cuff poems to go with them. I strive to restrain myself. But you might take a look at the comments for this blog entry. (My complete poem is here.)

And finally, I have very much enjoyed the poems at Paul Webb’s Portfolio. And, his blog is Oudeis2005 on WordPress.

 

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 18: A series of anecdotes

Not likely…Instead, a few pictures with comments.

These photos are from my personal album. My parents took a lot photographs throughout their lifetimes. As we left home for college, we each received a large photo album with a copy of every photograph that included us. Mine is on the bookshelf just to my right as I sit in the front room. This first group is photos taken the first winter in our “new” house. They started out building a basement house, adding the upper story (which my mother designed and drew up the blueprints for) before I finished grade school. My mother’s father took endless correspondence courses, and she and her father took architecture courses together; she also worked at the hardware store until she left for college.

In the summertime, Mother would send Dad and me out of the house, so that she could take care of the younger children and get housework done. (I was an active, precocious child.) I enjoyed going fishing, learning how to remove the scales from the fish, learning how to mark a trail through the “woods” in the pastures along the river, and going out into the fields with my father and his brothers when they went hunting for pheasants. (When I reached the proper age for such, I was the only girl in the school-sponsored Hunter Education Program.) The table at which I am sitting in that last photograph above is a picnic table that my parents built to serve as a kitchen table in the basement. (Mother’s father had a lumber yard, back in Iowa, and she was really handy at planning and building shelves, bedsteads, daybeds and whatever else needed doing. Together, she and I built the furniture for my first apartment after college and refinished some pieces that we picked up at the Salvation Army Store.)

Three more photographs.  First is the “gathering of the Wicker clan” for Father’s 100th birthday party, the day after Mother’s memorial service in the home town. The second is a photo that Dad had taken to send to Mom while they were in the service (Army and Navy, respectively). The third is a portrait photo of Mother in uniform.

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 17: A Map as Your Muse

For this day of “Finding Everyday Inspiration”, I am once again “mining my own material”. “Right-of-Ways” was written in response to a Poetry 101 Rehab prompt (March 2015). The Google Map encompasses various places I traveled to, whether by train, plane, bus or car, or in the 60s and early 70s and short of cash, hitchhiking. As the tenor of this country’s mood has become tense, concerning the Dreamers and DACA, I recall my own dreams and the often treacherous freedoms of my childhood and early adulthood.

Right-of-Ways”

Rivers and railroad right-of-ways
were the trails of breadcrumbs
that led me away from home
to adventures in long hot days
of childhood’s summers.

They tempted me to run across the tracks,
then follow until the railroad bridge
spanned a river. Tree branches overhung
a bend where I could fish and dive and swim,
sheltered from the rapid currents.

Later, because one cannot hike or swim
through all the years of growing up,
I saved my allowance to travel the right-of-way.
A commuter train would take me to the city
with its wonders of a Five-and-Dime with escalators.

The right-of-ways felt right. They
ran both ways: between home’s safety
and a world of new sounds and hotdogs with
mustard and tall buildings and people
who didn’t all talk or look like us.

Sometimes railroad right-of-ways
divide a village into two. The ‘right’ and
‘wrong’ divide themselves from one another.
The right-of-way can turn into a wall of
self-defense against humiliation, others’ pride.

We have need of right-of-ways, the trains and
rivers that guide us, move us from traps and tears
to dreams and possibilities. Roadways not barred,
right-of-ways that offer open passage
to wherever we are called to become.

Copyright © 2015-04-30, by Liz Bennefeld.

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 16: Mine Your Own Material

Favorite Recipes and a Short Story, from previous years of blogging

Eggs and Orange Juice, September 2014

I like starting out the day with an omelette, a couple times a week. Sometimes they’re simple, and sometimes they’re more involved.

This morning’s omelette consisted of three eggs, two slices of colby-jack cheese, a small handful of Dole chopped salad greens, two sliced baby bella mushrooms, and two small celery stocks with leaves from the very center of the bunch. I cooked them in butter, the greens first, then the well-beaten eggs, and the cheese scattered across the top. Seasoning: generous portions of ground cumin and ground white pepper over all. (I’m not at all fond of salt.)

One time-saving practice is using paper plates and bowls. There is a limit to how much time I want to spend washing dishes. Serving meals on paper plates atop the Corelle plates of corresponding size simplifies cleanup.

Cake in a Cup, October 2014

In a large cup, mix together dry ingredients

4 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp cocoa powder (unsweetened)

Add one egg and mix thoroughly. Stir in the rest of the ingredients one at a time and continue stirring until batter is smooth.

3 Tbsp milk
2 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Put the cup into the microwave and heat on High power for 3 minutes. Remove the cup promptly and turn out the cake onto a plate.

Variation 1. Using brownie mix that calls for added oil and milk, in place of the sugar and cocoa powder add equivalent amounts of flour. [If you use coconut flour, add an extra Tbsp of milk (or water) for each Tbsp of coconut flour.]

Variation 2. If you have problems with gluten: I use gluten-free flour (or brownie mix) for my own cake in a cup. When my baking shelf is fully stocked, I use 1 Tbsp each of white rice, brown rice, tapioca, and coconut flours.

A Food-Centered Short Story
Written for a 48-hour short story competition in 2005

“By Any Other Name”
a short story by Liz Bennefeld

Elaine sat at the desk, telephone to her ear, nodding in response to the speaker at the other end of the circuit and throwing in an “I see” during the occasional breaks. She hated roses—especially red ones—and the stink that came with them. Useless plants! Let in just one rose with the discretionary planting allotments! There would be fifty different varieties of ornamental roses in the space habitat, and there wouldn’t be a useful plant in the bunch. Even though she knew her hatred of the plants harkened back to early childhood, when she hadn’t been allowed to plant her own little herbs in the only space available, in amongst her grandmother’s prized rose bushes, she could not overcome the distaste the memories brought up.
Read More …

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 15: Take a c(l)ue

Rather than poll my readers (hi, Mara!), I turned to the alternatives listed for Day 15 on the Resource Page and selected three related suggestions:

  • Tell us about a book that opened your eyes when you were young.
  • Describe a life-changing experience with a book.

When I was in grade-school, I read “In Hiding”, a novella by Wilmar H. Shiras, and later, Children of the Atom, based on “In Hiding” and two other subsequent stories. (Our village librarian knew that I was into science fiction novels, and I got a steady supply from her and from the regional bookmobile from second grade on up.) The child who was the central character in the book had interests beyond his age and had developed self-protective practices that helped him maintain a fairly normal front to the rest of the world. The novel deals with his finding other children like him and gradually forming community with them and beginning the process of integrating with society.

Because I found it difficult to communicate with peers, with few interests in common, I started developing some of those techniques as a camouflage. That is, I pretty much quit talking to people in general, outside of my family, except for librarians, who could be counted on to provide me with reading material beyond my grade level. I also shadowed a couple of students in my class who seemed to have no other friends, and that gave the three of us a group to be part of: to sit together during school events and to walk with, going from one classroom to the next. I don’t think I formed any friendships as such until my last two years in college. Almost none of those “took”, but at least I knew and was known by a fair number of people. As I look back, I don’t think I was quite so invisible during my college years as I had thought at the time. I still wasn’t paying much attention to anything outside my head.

Another thing that Shiras’ stories and others taught me was to start making decisions about my own life, and not just follow the path of least controversy. In college, lacking only two courses to complete minors in chemistry and mathematics, I started an English major the summer leading into my junior year, and the summer leading into my senior year, I began a philosophy major. The philosophy department arranged for me to take one of the required courses by independent study, so that I would graduate on time. My parents had been set on my becoming a scientist (and making a lot of money with a major corporation). My changes in coursework did not go down well, but since I had previously arranged with my chemistry advisor to have him talk with my parents about my decision, should that become necessary, I prevailed. But had to borrow more money, my senior year, than I’d planned on to pull it off.

Anyway, Shiras provided a “role model” for me that made me comfortable moving through society without more than minimal interaction. After I ended my corporate career to work freelance, I began to meet more people with similar interests. That was really good, being able to have conversations with folks. Talk about almost anything. Sometimes, still, I don’t find the right words to communicate what I see in my mind, but that also doesn’t bother me so much anymore.

  • Where do you like to read?

When I was very young, I liked to climb from the top of the bookshelf into the casement of the window and hide behind the curtains to read. Ours was a basement house in the early years, and so I could look out the window at ground level. Later, I learned how to open the window from the inside and slide the screen out, so that I could disappear into the horse pasture just beyond our back fence. The village was not well lit at night, and on the other side of the pasture’s windbreak, to the west, I see the sky clearly, the moon (I drew maps) and the constellations (I drew maps). Lovely escape into another world!

 

An assignment in WordPress Blogging U’s course Writing: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 13: Play with Word Count

thick snowfall partly obscuring windblown tree branches

Snow Before the New Year

 

Mostly, I write short verse. What SFPA refers to as “Dwarf” poetry (10 lines or fewer). Writing a longer poem than usual would qualify, I think, as playing with the word count. On a whim, I also upended habit by employing a different technique and structure, as well as a change of topic. This was written on a whim, once through, so please forgive any fumbling in the writing.

 

Lapse Into Winter Sanity

Trees grow along the road
Hiding fields and gardens
In shade and shadows
Safe from brutal winds

Aside the bales of hay
Lurk deer and cattle, mingled
Snug behind the thick, dried straw
Open to the warm midmorning sun

Winter snows pile up
Inside the windbreaks
Leaves insulate foundations
Last service by dormant trees

Peace covers the countryside
As the winter wears on, isolating
Sleeping towns and villages
Spared floods and fear and fools

Copyright © 2017-09-05, by Elizabeth Bennefeld.

 

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 12: Critique a Piece of Work

Today, express your opinion on a topic or a piece of artwork. This is your opportunity to comment on something you’re passionate about, or review a piece of entertainment that you love or despise. | You can approach this assignment in your own style and preferred format, and write about work in any genre or medium that speaks to you.

This assignment has presented a conundrum. A discontinuity. Critique and review are not the same thing, nor is a critical review or comments on an object of passion or entertainment. In the Resources section for this course, I read the alternative, “Offer your perspective on a topic of your choice (from politics to public education, from feminism to the environment, or any other topic you’re passionate about).” I wonder if we’re just asking, Do you feel strongly enough about some subject to speak about it?

According to the online Cambridge Dictionary, passionate is defined as “having very strong feelings or emotions”. I would go so far as to say that I have convictions. A conviction is defined as “a firmly held belief or opinion”; synonyms include “idea, stance, thoughts, persuasion, article of faith,” &c.  I think that convictions translate more directly into decisions and actions, in contrast to passion, which I associate with reactions, rather than decisions, and less objectively focused with regard to consequences.

I don’t know why, but an incident…a couples questionnaire that my husband and I filled out during premarital counseling, required in order to marry in the church of our choice. The instrument was designed to analyze the family of origin in terms of structure and power. My husband’s family was categorized as rigid and authoritarian, while my environment was described as chaotic anarchy. And so, my opinions are my own and closely held, but I believe that I would be uncomfortable at finding myself among other people like me.

 

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 11: A Cup of Coffee

Toddy coffee cold-brew system

Toddy: The Night Before the Morning’s Coffee

If we were having coffee together, today, I would share some fresh, cold-brew coffee with you. Hot, warm or cold, made with water or milk or some of each. There’s also a selection of black tea in the cupboard and cold water in the refrigerator. The puppies aren’t used to having company, but they’ll lie down, once they’ve said “Hello”, and go back to sleep while we visit.

If we were having coffee together, today, I would tell you that my day went well. My husband is building a woodworking shop in the back yard, and today he was able to finish his To-Do List without my help. Tomorrow I’ll be back up on a ladder, lifting boards and holding them in place while he measures them or nails them onto to the studs. The building is taking shape with windows, doors, and exterior walls done, but for the siding.

If we were having coffee together, I would show you some of the photographs that I took, today, in the back yard. The cool quiet shade of the cotoneaster bushes providing the perfect spot to pull up camp chairs, a step stool for a table between them. Do you remember when film was expensive, as was having the pictures developed, and so we would limit our picture-taking and not be able to look at the photographs for months? That was on my budget, anyway. My parents, with a true sense of history, hauled their cameras with them wherever they went. Even to the Philippine Islands and Hawaii, when they were stationed there during WW II. There are so many photo albums in the family home, which one of my brothers bought after their deaths, that we could never get through them even to label the subjects of the photos or where they were taken.

If we were having coffee together, I would remind you that I have been changing around my various blogs and domains and their content as life is changing, here. We are back to going through papers, books, clothes, and such, and tossing the excess. I hope to get the longer desk in my back sitting room moved out to the workshop, so that I have more room for bookshelves. I would like to move those out of the basement, just in case we also get heavy rainfall here. One must think of those things. I have replaced many books with e-editions, but I still have hardcover books that I cherish.

Anyway, I went through The Art of Disorder and set all of my posts before May to “Private”. Instead of using that blog for tracking my health numbers and nattering about how I feel tired, I plan to use it more for challenges. I am feeling well enough, now, to try keeping up with the weekly photo challenges and the daily prompts from WordPress. This blog will go back to poetry, short stories, and perhaps essays, that don’t fit in with my Quilted Poetry posts at WordPress. Do you compartmentalize your creative efforts? I think that my flower photographs and my recipes/cooking activities go together, so I am not changing that for now. This is the blog where I posted my “Poem a Day” for the 2017 NaPoWriMo challenge. I did that with a group, this year, which was a lot of fun.

Everything will get sorted out eventually. Or not.

I am glad that we were able to get together for coffee, this evening. I hope you will stop by again.

Best wishes!
Lizl

P.S. (Almost) every weekend, I take part in the #WeekendCoffeeShare on my Stray Coffee Breaks blog (also on WordPress). Please drop by if you’re in the neighborhood!

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 8: Reinvent the Letter Format (or not)

blue wild flax flower in the garden with stems; colour altered

Blue Wild Flax

Some might say a post in the form of a letter is trite and overdone. But with the right approach and tone, a letter can tell a great story and get your message across (and it doesn’t have to be negative or shaming — a letter can be joyous).

Today, write your post as a letter. About what, and to whom? Up to you!

As it turned out, I wrote a letter, sent by email, to a cousin who lives out-of-state, whom I have not seen face to face since we both were in high school, if I remember correctly. We have gotten into contact because of deaths in our immediate family: her parents (October and July) and mine (December and February). I wrote to her again yesterday, and I received an answering letter today.

That, of course, has brought to mind correspondents that I have not written to in years. One friend that I exchanged letters with in 2011-2012 has not responded since then, and I did not because of my poor health at the time. The other person? In the midst of all, I totally lost track of time, between my mother’s failing health, coping with the new puppies, and seemingly getting hit hard by the diabetes that was diagnosed this last December. I believe that she was the last one to write.

I don’t care to “reinvent the letter format”. What I do care to do, now that my other sister and I have begun exchanging notes again, is pick up some of the dropped threads. Over my lifetime I have enjoyed sending and receiving letters. It’s a whole different thing from blogging and texting.

That brings me to another thought. The ephemeral nature of electronic media. The intangible nature of it diminishes it, even as it makes it easier to hold onto during one’s life. (I take photos of letters I receive and stick them on my backup HD and a flash drive. My new puppy devours paper products. Loves sheets of paper and envelopes in particular. Especially if crunchy see-through windows are involved.)

Since I have hosted blogs, I expect that almost all of my poetry and photographic art will disappear within a short time after my death.

Ephemeral works of art. I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

 

 

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 6: The Space to Write

I usually like to be in the midst of things as I write. That means, here, being in the front room, where I’m just steps from whatever I need. Our dogs keep me company, and taking them outside every hour or so is helpful, because I have a tendency otherwise just to sit in one spot. Getting proper exercise has become more important as I age, and so I’ve added an elliptical machine to the front room and moved the (used) exercise bike to the three-season gazebo. I’ve also free weights for exercising my arms while I’m pedaling.

My writing environment is, now that I look at it, designed to keep me from writing or reading to the exclusion of everything else. The “writing” part comes automatically, while thinking is taking place. The Space to Write betters my chances of being able to continue writing in the long run, while making it easier to interrupt the writing to take care of everyday needs for food, rest, recreation and playing fetch with the dogs. There is a quilt for taking a nap, and I’ve got a larger-size lap desk that doubles as a foot rest when placed on the bottom shelf’s Great Ideas Today yearbooks.

Another thing that I appreciate about the arrangement is that if I get restless or just want to lose myself in motion for a while, my piano is within easy reach. I can play familiar pieces, distract myself with trying to learn a new piece, or just let my mind wander while I play arpeggios or multi-octave scales. I no longer have room for the exercise mat in the front room. Moved it out into the gazebo for use during the warmer weather.

Again, I’ve extended the day far too long. We were up and out in the back yard, Friday morning, siding my husband’s new woodworking shop, and so I have added my writing to the other end of the day.

Blogging University Course: Writing: Finding Everyday Inspiration

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 5: Begin with a Quotation

One need not hope in order to undertake,
nor succeed in order to persevere.
— William I, Prince of Orange (1533–1584)

I don’t recall when I first came across this quotation attributed to William I, Prince of Orange, but it’s stuck with me through decades. It connects in my mind with the poem that I wrote for my parents as a Christmas present (see “Born of Love”), a few years after I quit corporate to start my own freelance business. Took a while for the business to take off, but stuck with it.

It has been important to me, in great part, thanks to my parents, that I make decisions on the basis of what seems right to me. “Everybody’s doing it” is not an excuse for refraining from a right action or for following a path that doesn’t lead to where I want to be in the long run. There are no guarantees of success, even if the decision is faultless and praiseworthy. One acts because acting is the right thing to do, or refrains from acting because the action would not be the best. Even when I pick my battles, I sometimes lose them. That doesn’t mean that I should not try. Taking the easy path or “going with the flow” because it’s easier or less dangerous (or doesn’t make me look like an idiot to other people) … well, one just didn’t do that. Even when there’s no path marked out.

Over the decades it’s turned into a pretty solid commitment. A way of living. A way of life. Choosing life. Weighing the consequences is important in terms of ramifications for family relationships and commitments, but that could no longer be the deciding factor. It’s not about winning or losing, but about choosing the right paths and taking the right actions. And accepting that others do not have to understand. Each of us is unique. Each has one’s own paths to follow, directions to go, decisions to make.

And now, my eyes are tired and I can no longer see to write.

Best wishes!
Lizl

Finding Everyday Inspiration: A WordPress Course

Everyday Inspiration, Day Three: One-word inspiration

Select one word from this list as your post inspiration. Have you always wanted to write about the decision that changed your life? Are you a long-term traveler looking for a place to settle?…

Or, one can look at the list of six words and realize that as a group, they are a poem that wants to be discovered:

  • hope
  • regret
  • home
  • choice
  • secret
  • abundance

 

‘children, after
loss of parents’

home is no more
with grief
comes an abundance
of regret

in secret, our hope
each makes the choice
to outrun death
and mourn alone

Copyright © 2017-08-22, by E.W. Bennefeld.

 

 

Everyday Inspiration, Day Two: Write a List

wild flax flower in my garden (colours altered), orange flower and greenish-blue stem,

Blue Wild Flax Flower Art

This is an interesting exercise for me, because I enjoy writing lists. My favorite, “O Hidden Drawer“, was written in February 2015 for Writing 201: Poetry (WordPress, Blogging U). More recently, on this blog, I wrote “Survival” for day 25 of the 2017 NaPoWriMo challenge, a prose poem comprised of a list of things to be remembered in the midst of living life.

What I’m good at . . .

  1. Developing and sticking to a food regimen (mostly)
  2. Creating something or engaging in creative activity everyday
  3. Attempting to relearn skills that I have lost (e.g., playing the piano)
  4. Engaging people in conversations (which become one-sided, and so don’t last as long as I would like, but still . . . )
  5. Relaxing, taking naps, and thinking—staying centered
  6. Reading lots and lots of books, diverse genres and topics
  7. Taking photographs
  8. Writing poems
  9. Nattering on and on, mostly to myself or the dogs, when I am not reading or writing or exercising, which has resulted in
  10. Not watching television, listening to the radio (except to listen to the local ham radio net on weekends sometimes), or playing music for background noise
  11. Writing long letters. I do need friends or acquaintances to write to, who also would write letters. One of the things I do miss from college is the endless discussions about weighty topics.