I have written two of the last three poems for NaPoWriMo 2019. Laid low by an infected wound, and just now feeling up to writing, again, three or four days into a seven-day script for antibiotics. I hope to add the third poem to this page sometime before the end of Friday.
as I slept, the sun
appeared and warmed the ground
I woke to tulips
Very loosely based on the Day 18 prompt from the Cuyahoga County Public Library. I am not sure that I’ll go back to rework this after NaPoWriMo is over for this year. I do know that I do not write poetry in four-line stanzas.
‘topics not under discussion’
sometimes I turn around to see
as though from outside human space
the larger patterns…masked by lies
then my heart catches…forgets how to beat
and I find myself hoping that it won’t
remember…how to start itself again
in the longer run the gifts I wield
will make no lasting difference
all will die quietly…fade away in sleep
what I can achieve is to be present
in this moment, acknowledging each
thing that lives and care…until we’re dead
I found myself considering the sadness of leaves and seeds that fall where they can neither decompose nor have the opportunity to germinate and grow. And so, on a (serious) whimsy, I promised the residue on the garage floor that when I was finished with taking their photographs, there, I would gather up them all and return them to the outdoors, where they may decay, or sprout, and live again.
I cry for the leaves on the garage floor
thrown out in new plastic bags
not renewing the soil
Hay(na)Ku, a new form by Eileen R. Tabio, has one word in the first line, two in the second and three in the third, with each word having as many syllables as you wish. Try one! (Cuyahoga Library Writers Center, Day 10)
As I write this poem, I am listening to an ongoing spring blizzard that has delivered over seven inches of snow, so far today. We expect another five to seven inches before the storm ends. The tulips and daffodils long since emerged from the warm, damp grown. I am trusting the new snow to protect them from the wind and icy rains still to come.
I have looked at photos from previous years, and April snows are not that unexpected. Still, it is strange to be confined to house and outbuildings by snow drifts, when at the beginning of the week, I was outside barefoot and without a jacket.
And today is actually a special day: Two for Tuesday! Pick one prompt or use both…your choice! (1) Write a worst case poem. What’s the worst that could happen? (2) Write a best case poem. Take the worst and reverse it!
death of oceans
deserts without breath
bright colors on the water
moonlight’s dance on silent waves
Crying children whisper through my dreams,
their voices faint and dying
from hunger and from fading hope.
I hold my heart untouched
behind a wall of patient waiting.
A few more months, my heart,
a few months only and they’ll die,
their crying cease.
Then only ghosts of crying children
will disturb your sleep.
Originally published as “Ghosts of Crying Children” in the January/February 1980 issue of OURS (as of 1994, the Adoptive Families Magazine), “Crying Children” has since been re-published in other venues). [Minor revisions.]
… and wondering how so much time could have gone by. I worked freelance for twice the number of years I was employed by corporations after college graduation. How did I come to be in my seventies? I don’t feel any different.
I take that back. I feel like I am a different me. Can’t remember, really, who I was before I became who I am now. The old refrain…my life is a short, red carpet that rolls up behind me as I continue on.
Perhaps this is a settling. A readjustment to whatever constitutes normal, following the deaths of so many of the people who comprised the framework of my life. And they’ll keep dropping off until such time as I beat someone else to it.
My father, in his later years, spoke often of having lived long enough, meaning, I suppose, that it no longer held attraction for him and he longed to continue on to what comes next. Bored, I think, having lost his context and having no driving incentive to be entertained and having passed the need, interest, curiosity, or necessity for acquiring new knowledge. I share his forebodings but have provided no hostages to fortune. I have reduced the level of external stimulation in my immediate environment. I think that has helped.
Ah, well! There is the matter of NaNoWriMo 2018. I and most of the usual suspects will be attempting to write a new poem for each day of November. Barb will be sending out some helpful (but not mandatory) writing prompts each morning during the month. Those of us who feel inclined will send each day’s poem to everyone on the email group.
I have decided to not clutter this blog with daily poems and pictures, this time around. I’ve done so previously and found it disruptive. What I have done is to wipe out my prior posts &c at theartofdisorder.blogspot.com (after downloading earlier posts) and made a trial run with picture-poem pairings for the last three days of October.
I also have gotten rid of themomentsbetween at blogger.com and am fooling around with ideas for Quiet Spaces with “lizbennefeld” as the URL. I am expecting that the improvements at WordPress may well make it unusable, and so I have discontinued the domain The Art of Disorder, reverting to a free/personal blog there. That should come about by the end of this year. I may also increase my hosting package here and drop the Quilted Poetry domain also, using this space instead for any overflow. Dreamwidth has not so far been a good substitute for LJ, but I am drawn back to it again and again, and I will continue my paid account.
I believe that another cup of hot milk is in order, this time without the added coffee concentrate. I really do have to sleep, tonight.
o my dear!
the flowers refuse to fade
their fragrance cloys
a quiet room with filtered air
a comfy chair and puppies
So many names, so many faces I no longer remember, voices muted by the overwhelming years. I threw away their letters. Burned their photographs. Drowned grief in nights of walking…days at the piano, my hands exhausted, my fingers worn. All is gone but for faded memories of having known.
no pretense… no dress rehearsal
letting go doesn’t get easier
familiar footsteps approach
pass by without a pause
Real life-long learning doesn’t have to be profound or deep or even long-lasting. Doing so keeps us young! While in Boston this last weekend, I learned that I love lobster rolls. I also learned that I love the warm welcoming people I met. Learning something new blesses us all in one way or another and perhaps only in hindsight. Onward!
a water pail
moist dirt between my toes
after a lingering winter
it’s time to plant flowers
I had thought there would be more feelings about…more active involvement in the act of my dying. Interaction with this new experience. Not simply waiting in the not-silence, listening to my breath in- and outing…all other sounds too far away. I slip into sleep. When I wake, I listen for the sound of breathing, check to see if it’s really mine. Somewhere along the line, it won’t be, anymore.
sounds fade away, approach again…
listening for forever
Prompt for the day, Cayahoga library: List all the jobs you have had, including volunteer work and other unpaid jobs. Turn the list into a list poem by rearranging, repeating or just titling it. /Or/ write a poem about one of them.
I thought I’d stick to the jobs during grade school and high school, leaving out the gardening chores, since that really was free labor for the common good.
“It’s good for you”
My first jobs, tedious but
character- and muscle-building
picking rocks at springtime
in farmers’ fields
kids’ time is cheaper than repairs
Father rented us out by the day
The second summer job lasted
much shorter than it seemed
which was always and forever
clipping grass around stones
mowing the cemetery grounds
setting traps for ground squirrels
who spoiled painstaking work—
lugging pails of well water
to drown the pests or
drive them out
Should have stuck with the rock picking
The best job of my childhood
was selling door to door
in a small town every household
finds the need for more stationery
cards for none or all occasions
so their children find buyers, too
Pay-off was a week or two
each August far away from home
for private and group lessons,
ensemble, band and choir rehearsals
Brass ensemble work cost extra…
Worth the miles walked to get there
An “origin story” is the backstory of how a character became a protagonist or how superheroines (or -heroes) received theirsuperpowers. Write a poem that imagines your backstory as either a poet or a superhero(ine).
The Vicissitudes of Childhood
I learned to talk aloud
by learning how to read
line by line, books read—
two pages, pointing out
each word and saying it,
and when I’d read them back
I’d open up my mouth again…
to eat a bite of baby food
while Mother turned the page
This poem is in response to a poem not from this challenge, but one that I wrote for the 2008 SFPA poetry contest; the theme was “Energy”. The poem’s title is “Future Freedom”. It’s the second poem on this page of my QuiltedPoetry blog.
Cuyahoga Library prompt: Cleveland poet Russell Atkins describes a backyard that “has hold/ of the throats/ of trees.” Write a poem that personifies your backyard, or the backyard of someone you know, during a particular season of the year.
like an old grave site
the fenced-in garden bed lies
shadowed by bare limbs
last fall’s scattered stalks conceal
shoots of this year’s wildflowers
For April 22, I selected this prompt from naprowrimo:
And now for our daily prompt (optional as always). I’ve found this one rather useful in trying to ‘surprise’ myself into writing something I wouldn’t have come up with otherwise. Today, I’d like you to take one of the following statements of something impossible, and then write a poem in which the impossible thing happens: …” But the phrase that immediately came to mind was “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” Psalm 103:12.
As Far As The East Is
the sun rolls along
west is ahead—east, behind
just a glance away
In bright sunlight, all shadows
are behind me as I face the sun.
I love to dance
strong horizontal sweeps
of the tail fin below…
gill covers and filaments
vibrating, my head up
looking at the bright waves
of sunlight as the lights
flow on above me
Prompt- Cayahoga library: Katerina Stoykova-Klemer has written, “Often I Wish I Were// a potato.// Eyes opened/ in all directions.” Begin a poem with “Often I wish I were” and complete the stanza with…” and see where that takes your poem.
I sometimes wish I were a garden
filled with roots, berries and such
I would renew both dirt and harvest
sending seeds throughout the Earth
I always wished I had big shoulders
broad and strong to share life’s cares
I’d wrap my arms around the crying
help transform their tears to joy
I often wish I were a spirit
floating high above the world…
I’d watch closely for the hurting
act to foster hope’s rebirth
NaPoWriMo Prompt: Today, we’d like to challenge you specifically to write a haibun that takes in the natural landscape of the place you live. It may be the high sierra, dusty plains, lush rainforest, or a suburbia of tiny, identical houses – but wherever you live, here’s your chance to bring it to life through the charming mix-and-match methodology of haibun.
A Late Spring
Rabbits have eaten the bark from low Cotoneaster branches, leaving them bare to lingering cold, icy winds, and snow storms. Again this year, the bushes are at risk to dry and die when the heat does come, searing tender leaves. There will be no warm rains to waken grass seed strewn in hope, six months ago. Birds eat the grains, finding no new growth.
dormant flax seeds hide
beneath last autumn’s bent stalks
waiting for summer
I decided to go back to April 9, to the Pilgrimage prompt, and wander a bit through the family tree. My mother was a genealogist, among other things, and we kids got to do research, each in our turn.
Who We Were [still a rough draft]
Our people came from Iowa
by way of the Norman invasion,
Mayflower I and II, the Winthrop Fleet
by way of rivers on diverse craft
neighbors with neighbors
towns moving together
They arrived in the Firelands
then settled in Iowa and
opened South Dakota—farms
were lost behind the dam, so
back to small-town Iowa
Penneys went into retail, catalog sales
A connection of “our” Bennetts sent
Stanley to find Livingston
the Deans made sausage, and the
Gallops (Kolopp, from Alsace) took polls
The grocery store owner in
South Dakota patented a plow
the Carters served in India
as Methodist missionaries
Evangeline Ink wrote an exposé
novel about TB camp swindles
My generation and the next have been
lawyers, executives, freelancers, clerks
writing and publishing books,
poetry. textbooks, and many stories
nurses caring for the injured and elderly,
builders, handcrafters, quilters,
Myself, I grow wild flax
in the backyard garden, take naps
with the puppy dogs, make up recipes
and do the laundry, play piano, and
hold my husband close to my heart
I read only as many books in a week
as I write poems, a photo for most
no children, but a library
gathered over a lifetime
determined to leave no book unread…
always buying more
There’s always time to write a poem…
time to read a book
I find it interesting, how different the topics are for my online journal from the paper journal that I have returned to since the first of 2018. Things that I would only post, if at all, on my Patchwork Prose site, which still suffers little to no traffic in any given month. (I have not brought myself to write there much.)
I suspect that I am more secretive than I’d thought. Or, more accurately, how much a “private person” I’ve turned out to be, simply because I do not talk much about externals. Because I don’t live in the externals.
Often, a “thing” or “experience” seems not objectively real until I write it down somewhere. Or relive it to myself in words so that it will stick. I have found it interesting that I can go back through memory and reimage, should other events overtake me, and so file a happening in words in my mind or on paper afterwards. Not always, but sometimes. Enough.
When I look back through the written journals before I shred them (I have journaled since my high school years), I find that a lot of what I have puzzled over/pondered, surprises me. Looks unfamiliar. The same is true of my online journals. Excepting, perhaps, the poems that I write.
We have a lot of rabbits in our yard and the surrounding neighborhood, which we appreciate, since they provide a lot of exercise for our dogs. First thing in the morning, they are eager to go outside and check for rabbits who’ve stayed out eating past the softer light of sunrise. They have such fun! Especially when the rabbits run off in different directions…or taunt the dogs by making an extra detour around the garden shed before slipping out through the fence.
Brewer: For today’s prompt, write an intelligence poem. Of course, intelligence is subjective. What is common sense for one person makes no sense to another. But intelligence is more than IQ and test scores. There’s artificial intelligence, intelligent animals, and military intel. And I’ve found that many poets have a special intelligence of their own.
I’m good with words
Ideas flow from my mouth
guiding the bewildered
the puzzled, the lost
Just don’t ask me to repeat
what I said last—I can’t
My mind has moved
into a new channel
The sound of spoken words
often bypasses memory
The words that I gave you
rest only with you, now
Prompt from NaPoWriMo: “Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem that stretches your comfort zone with line breaks. That could be a poem with very long lines, or very short lines. Or a poem that blends the two….”
when the patterns that you see
do not mirror the observations of others
patterns can be dangerous
the loaded gun can go off
when patterns go askew
things can happen
even when they don’t
flow with the
a lot like my life
Reading about the excess profit taking on generic drugs by companies centered on fast money rather than service to society, I find myself becoming convinced that for me to purchase and use such products would not be something I could bring myself to do. And then I wonder how much that conviction rests on my confidence of life after death.
In dealing with health issues currently, I avoid certain medications and diagnostic procedures. Some side effects that I know run in the family make me choose no treatment, rather than the certain damage to health and quality of life that would result from preventive medication.
A case in point would be the suggestion by doctor and nurse educator that I should use insulin to bring my blood sugar level down quickly. Knowing myself to be less than attentive or oriented to time and place, I refused that option, deeming the possibility of my killing myself by double- or triple-dosing myself through inattention to what I do to be more likely than effective self-treatment. After twelve months, I am now tapering off the medication that I did accept a prescription for.
That raises another question in my mind regarding motivation. Am I simply adverse to interfering with life’s progression? Do I think that nothing bad will happen to me by avoiding preventive treatments? What sort of internal guidelines/proscriptions am I following.
I feel strongly about the choices that I have been and continue to make. I do not know what my internal driver is. At all. Except that it seems to have something to do with the purpose of and framework for living in this world.
Brewer: For today’s prompt, write a “back in the day” poem. You might also
call this a “good old days” poem or a “bad old days” poem. To me, back in
the day is synonymous with history–but a kind of personal history (even if
shared among a community).
gold field…harvest time
footprints and downed stalks trail us
our shortcut home
In childhood, we wandered throughout the neighboring pastures and fields, afternoons and early evenings and weekend days. We swam in the creeks and marshes, rivers and shallow pond, often coming home soaked to the skin and coated with mud. When we arrived home in answer to Mother’s call, she often made us strip at the back door and sprayed us down with the garden hose until we were clean enough to come into the house, put on clean clothes, and help set the table for supper.
Brewer: For today’s prompt, write a response poem. The poem can be a response to anything–a piece of news, some art, a famous (or not so famous) quotation, or whatever. However, I thought it might be a cool opportunity to respond to a poem that you’ve written this month. If both poems work, it could make an interesting dynamic to have two (or more) poems that interact with each other.
leaves on edge
dance to autumn’s wind
My husband and I have been talking about this writing prompt, how we feel about being remembered after we die. As a writer, I thought at first that I would want my poetry to be remembered (and I would be pleased if people printed out a poem or two that spoke to them, since one does not remember poems, and contrary to popular belief, stuff on the Internet does not hang around forever). And I write too much, too often, to produce comprehensive books of my work.
Ephemeral experiences, however, are worthy of being cherished. So often, I find, people remember me because of my smile…and mention it to me, when they see me again after our first meeting. Smiles. Laughter. Recognition of a momentary rapport with a stranger. A moment of not-aloneness. When I experience that, I feel somehow more real.
Prompt for the 24th: Brewer: For today’s prompt, write a “how I’ll be remembered” poem. It’s an interesting question: How will I be remembered? My amazing looks? My incredible personality? My charitable nature? My goofy jokes? The cranky guy who’s always telling people to stay off his lawn? Dive into this introspection today.
If you remember me at all,
recall my joy—my laughter.
Remember me. The one who
looked into your eyes
and recognized a friend.
No matter that we’d never meet again.
Remember me, taking notice of you,
drawing your attention. I laughed…
I believe that the 19th day was the one that I missed in the poem-a-day string. Having given up on the prompts for that day, I found a prompt that did appeal to me: Not what we expected (from PoetryPotion, Nov. 20). Now, I should be caught up on the writing of ’em, if not the posting.
When I see her now
she looks so much younger—
filled with song
vigorous and happy, radiant…
sorrows past, still in love
—Elizabeth Bennefeld, 2017-11-18
My mother died on 15 November 2016 (age 94, and my father, a little more than 3 months later, age 100), and I have been trying to write a poem for the Day 14 prompt from PoetryPotion: “When I see my mother”. It took me a while, but it was a writing prompt I wanted to respond to. (Also posting this on my Quilted Poetry blog.)
This is a poem that I wrote for the “Ronovan Writes Haiku” weekly poetry writing challenge, for which two words are provided as prompts and synonyms are allowed. Haiku are, for purposes of the challenge, defined as 5-7-5 format…or writer’s choice, which often includes tanka, senryu, and, I expect, katauta and sedoka. Haven’t really kept track of all the variances. I first published this poem on my Quilted Poetry website: Partly Cloudy (Ronovan Writes Haiku).
I went through a number of variations on this. Still not sure which one I like the best. This, which I mailed in for my poem-a-day group, or the adaptation I used for Ronovan Writes Haiku weekly challenge. Or perhaps one of the drafts that I deleted.
I went with NaHaiWriMo’s prompt, again: solar wind. I remember reading a science fiction book (I think it was in Lightwing, by Tara Harper, 1992) that included traveling from asteroid to asteroid using foil sails powered by the solar winds of the star where their space station was placed in orbit. Sometimes I dream of it
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.
memorial service programs
their photo montage
folded flags, spent cartridges
their ashes…my shattered heart
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.
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.
brown on gold petals
poppy flowers bask
in the summer sun
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Continue reading →
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!
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Why do I write? At its most basic, I write to find out what I think, or, what I am thinking about. I write prose to discover, to remember, and to understand. I write poetry/prose poetry to discover how I feel about what I think.
I have journaled since my high-school years. Previous to that, I took in information whole. I don’t recall making any value judgments. Nor do I remember thinking about the emotions I experienced when I was a child. They were exterior to me. Which isn’t to say that I did not experience emotions. They simply did not transfer or communicate the experience to my thinking self.
Secondly, I write because I am not in dialogue with anyone, anymore, except with my husband. Having a joint life, we communicate freely about common and individual interests, thoughts, and feelings. He is so much a part of me/the world in which I daily live, that there seems to be no I/Thou, but instead, us. Dialogue with—dare I say “outsiders”?—serves the same purpose of discovery. I discover thoughts, lines of thought, and deep truths within myself. That I then write, to clarify for myself my thoughts, reactions, feelings, and related values.
Related to writing, I recall Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages”, which I do not write in the proper manner, because I get allergic reactions to my hand’s rubbing against paper, and in more recent decades, cramping in my fingers that cuts short the physical experience of writing.* The discomforts derail my trains of thought. Second, I don’t seem to have “unloading” to do. Burdens carried that must be spewed forth onto the page in order to be dealt with and forgotten.
I loved to write letters, but ran out of people to send them to. People who might read them and respond. I suspect that my thoughts are majorly boring, aside from my short poetry. I sometimes wrote letters with no intention of mailing them. It’s almost like corresponding with someone else, because I went back over the letters and reread them. Like favorite books written by favorite authors.
I have discovered—we have, we siblings—that our parents maintained correspondence throughout the war, no matter where they each were stationed, and again when our father was called up during the Korean Conflict. That encourages me, finding out that writing volumes (and also, taking photographs, which we have in plenty from before our parents met and throughout their lives), that my sense of self-awareness and the need to take notice/note of my surroundings and interior life is a family trait. As has been voluminous reading. Reading through letters written between them, I realize how much, how deeply they were involved in each other, through good times and bad, until the very end. And now beyond.
Writing. It’s like talking to myself out loud while taking a long walk through the pastures and thickets and along the river. Everything seems more clearly defined. Manageable, or not, but more real.
* * *
*Our mother, who used to do typing exhibitions at her state fair when she was in school, raised a brood of touch typists, I suspect. She considered typing (keyboarding) to be a survival skill, and her skills transferred over to her computer keyboard.
These poems, although I posted the second one today on my poetry blog, belong together. Remembering is a way, I think, to let go of grief by understanding the loss. In this case, the loss of my parents, this last winter.
…and when the tide had turned,
when waking from long sleep, I found
that all was swept away
Who am I in this new world?
If there are paths
I cannot see them … yet
If I should go to sleep, again–
if I would sleep–
until the tide rolls in, once more,
would the safe, familiar world
that I once thought I knew–
believed I lived within–
be here before my eyes,
to welcome me?
Transition points feel foggy … nebulous … like standing on a piece of ground that cannot be seen or felt. Like wading at the edge of an unknown body of water, depths and currents still to be discovered, with morning mist cloaking the past and future in white and shadows. Memories, the only solid ground.
Inspired by The Daily Post’s photo prompt for this week: Delta.
As the last traces of the afternoon’s rainbow faded away, I found myself regretting that it would not…that they never remain long enough to satisfy that in me which longs for a rainbow at the end of the storm. One must pay attention to the rainbow when it appears, remember it, and bring the memory out again as the need arises. Much more need for a rainbow, much more often than they find themselves in the sky. They’re not to be ignored or discounted. One puts aside trivial chores to count the colors and mark their disappearance as they fade again.
I write the story of my life
one day at a time, taking care
to leaf through previous pages,
editing events, adjusting
back stories, tidying errors
and casual mistakes
that I would not have made,
had I known then what I think
I know today…subject
to further alterations
as seem prudent at the time.
There is time. There is always
time to get it right. There is
an eternity to get it all right.
Written out finally with no mistakes.
I had at one time, encouraged by others, considered writing an autobiography. As I go through the process of adjusting to my parents’ deaths, I realize that that would be the wrong avenue for me to take in grieving. Better, bits and bites in poetry and limited explorations in prose.
I have other things to do with my time, and I most probably will not have time to get it right. Not in this lifetime, anyway.