Flap, Flap, Rest

Rod's-TwoOspreysCrp_110421_10
Moonshine Road Ospreys **

I meant to write today, but an Osprey outside my window kept calling me to play.

“Look, I can fly . . . I can fly!”

It circled round and round above the pines outside my second story window.  “Come out! I’m flying!”  I checked my timer (more on that later).  Fifteen minutes of writing to go.  I’m on a creative roll . . . Can’t stop now.  Sorry.

“But I’m flying!”

I paused. Several years ago, I saw an Osprey through my bird scope when it first ascended from its nest.  Perched on the outer edge of its spindly woven branches, it flap, flap, rested.  Over and over.  Flap, flap, rest; flap, flap, rest; until one set of flaps lifted it straight up from the nest.  Oh my. Back down to rest, then flap, flap again.  More height.

Each lift-off took it higher, until the wind beneath its wings gently drew it forward and away from the nest.  At first it glided motionless, then instinctual pull of muscles set the wings in motion.  I knew I was witnessing the first-steps-of-a-toddler moment.

I looked down at the timer on my desk, then at my laptop. “Oh hell.  I hit “save” and flew downstairs in time to watch the white streaked underbelly fly low overhead.  I followed the squeals as it circled the house then flew west, its calls fading into the distance.  I stood, bare feet on a wet lawn, binoculars dangling from my hand, and laughed.

Back at my desk, mind now up in the trees, I reset my timer and try to refocus.  Distractions:  How does the Pomodoro Technique address them? My writing friend, Heather Donahue, introduced me to this time-management system that’s immensely helpful for staying focused and productive in writing.  Set a round, tomato-shaped ticking timer for 25 minutes. ( Pomodoro = Tomato in Italian).  Write until it dings.  Set for 5 minutes and take a break.  Return for 25 minutes of work, 5 minutes off.  Flap, flap, rest.  Flap, flap, rest. I get a lot done that way – writing, cello practice, long projects, etc.

Being focused is good, but I realize I live in a world surrounded by mystery. If I don’t allow myself to be distracted by nature, I miss out on the sheer joys of life.  I can always reset the timer later!

** Thanks to my neighbor, Rod Bondurant of Camptonville, for permission to use his beautiful photo of the Moonshine Ospreys.  While Ospreys aren’t an unusual bird near bodies of water, the Moonshine Road nest is in the Tahoe National Forest, half-way between Bullards Bar Reservoir and Middle Fork of the Yuba River.  Neighbors have been watching this Osprey family return since 2006.

© All materials copyright Shirley DicKard, 2012 – 2013, except as otherwise noted.

“Our Foremothers” 1915

Emily's 4th July Speech 1

Hey, enough about our Forefathers this Independence Day!  Back in 1915, my Great Grandmother Emily Hoppin gave this speech about “Our ForeMothers” to a Fourth of July celebration in Yolo County, California.

I’ve transcribed her words from my copy of her handwritten notes.   To read her full speech go to  Emily’s Speech.                      Here are some excerpts:

“OUR FOREMOTHERS”

For over a hundred years, on this anniversary of our nation’s birth, men have written and poets have sung of our forefathers.  Today, for the first time in the history of – well – I will not say our nation, but will say of Yolo County, you are to hear not only of your forefathers but your foremothers, and I wish I had the eloquent tongue to tell of them.

Neither do I today expect to give a small meed of praise to these foremothers of ours – but I would try to win for them some of the gratitude we give our forefathers.

 Often women are the leaders and organizers of great enterprises.  Our own country owes its discovery to the masterful mind of a woman. (note: I assume Queen Isabella of Spain, who financed Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the New World.  She also took an unusual interest in the Native Americans he brought back to Spain as slaves, by ordering the Indians returned to their homeland and freed.  However, she and her husband, Ferdinand, also started the Spanish Inquisition!  Now back to 1915).  

In the history of this beautiful state of ours where the pioneers of ’49 were enduring their hardships – the women were by their side and endured with them the hardships and lessons of the plains. 

Women have however been content with no praise at all, or the praise such as the old pioneer settler out west gave to his wife when an old grizzly bear came into his cabin one day.

          Perhaps you recall the man’s scream to his frau. 

         There’s a bear in the kitchen as big as a cow. 

          And how she advised him to murder him then. 

          And how his reply was, Yes! Betty, I will if you’ll first venture in. 

          So Betty leaped up and a poker she seized. 

          While her man shut the door and outside he squeezed 

          And then you remember, she laid on the blows. 

          While her man, through the keyhole kept shouting with din,

          Well done, my brave Betty.  Now hit him again.

           So with rapping and poking, poor Betty alone

          at last laid old Bruin as dead as a stone. 

          Then when the brave man saw the bear was no more,

         he ventured to poke himself in at the door.

          And off to the neighbors he hastened to tell,

          all the wonderful things –that morning befell. 

          And he published the wonderful story afar,

          How “Me and my Betty we just slaughtered that bar.”

Now my dear friends there is nothing personal in this story – nothing that is applicable to you – for you have never said to us in regard to taking hold of work.  Yes!  Darling we will, if you’ll first venture in.   We all know how energetic you men of Yolo County are, and how anxious you are that our county shall be well governed.

How glad you are to give due praise to women today, we who are proud to stand beside you and tell of the grand women of the past. Tis like stirring living embers when one calls to mind “all the achings and the quakings of the times that tried men’s souls.”

(Her speech continues with descriptions of women’s roles in the major events of America’s history.  The complete speech is on my website:  Emily’s Speech).

We who live in these days of railroads and telegraphs and books cannot realize the lonely days and nights of these women.

Speak of (women’s) brave words, their true hearts, their noble deeds.  Tell of their purity, their faith, their heroism, and let this fourth of July celebrate their deeds, as well as he deeds of our forefathers – and if between the living and the dead, is stretched, as some believe, a spirit wire, let it signal to them the words we speak today, and may their spirits – our guardian angels watch o’er our  country and may the God of our fore fathers and mothers, who through the gloom and night has guided our people. 

© All materials copyright Shirley DicKard, 2012 – 2013, except as otherwise noted.

A Community Of Jays

Jay BirdI’m trying to write, but birds are squawking outside the window. Not just a few chirps.  These guys are upset.  OK. I press “save” on my computer and head outside to find six Steller’s Jays flapping about in a heated conversation. On the lawn is Obi, my sweet old Animal Save dog, his mouth slightly open with that evasive “I’m not going to show you” look.

Ignoring my demands to “drop it,” he heads downhill accompanied by an aerial Greek Chorus.  He has his prize and isn’t going to relinquish it to me or the worrisome birds swooping overhead. I follow and corner him by his invisible fence, pry open his mouth and extract a bedraggled fledgling. Yes, it’s still alive.

Now the jays turn on me. Like the procession in Peter and the Wolf, I hold the bird high and head for home – dog leaping at my heels, ten birds now circling overhead.

With Obi locked in his dog yard, I set the soggy fledgling on the grass and watch from inside the house. I count twelve jays now. One lands next to little bird and gives him a poke, causing him to topple over, feet upright in the air. Another joins the poking.  Parents, probably.  I set the fledgling in a safer place and return to my computer.

After two hours of non-stop squawking, I realize the birds are now obsessed with my caged dog who is huddled tightly in a corner. They vent and dive. Obi’s eyes plead. I suggest he apologizes.

The Steller’s Jays continue their diatribe for four hours solid.  They seem to have no scruples about raiding other bird’s nests and eating their eggs, but they watch each other’s back more than any bird I’ve seen.

© All materials copyright Shirley DicKard, 2012 – 2013, except as otherwise noted.

Into the Silence

Walking alone in the woods, I’m hardly aware of the cacophony of chatter in my mind .  . .  Ah, a new wildflower . . . deer tracks . . .  clouds building to the east.  I’m also processing the day before, or day ahead, or re-visiting past emotions that disturbed or delighted me.  I’m a bubble floating within myself, while all around me, the world swirls with its own awareness and stories.

I’ve been reading Becoming Animal by David Abram. He links the interior chatter of verbal thought with the advent of silent reading – a fairly recent acquisition in man’s development. A tight neurological coupling arose in the brain between the visual focus and inner speech, he posits.

Frankly, I’ve never thought about the ability to hear the words in my head as I read them on the page. It’s only natural, right?  Yet Abram relates that before the twelfth century in Europe, the written word had to be spoken out loud to make sense of it.  Greek and Latin writing had no spaces between words and little guiding punctuation.  Semitic writing had no vowels and had to be sounded out loud to hear the meaning.  Starting in the seventh century, monks put spaces between each word as they copied texts, making it easier to read the words without having to sound them out.

I’ve thought about this in the novel I’m working on, “The Desk.”  Amisha has fled San Francisco in 2088 to find the family homestead and the desk that’s haunted generations of family women.  She has gouged out the chip implanted at birth in her neck – the only communication device humans should have or need. Her mind no longer filled with HumanaCorp’s constant messaging, she wanders in silence.  Without a cloud of inner dialogue obscuring her awareness, she is drawn into the animate and inanimate world surrounding her.  She becomes a listener.Firgure Pictograph

“Our intelligence struggles to think its way out of the mirrored labyrinth, but the actual exit is to be found only by turning aside now and then, from the churning of thought, dropping beneath the spell of inner speech to listen into the wordless silence.”  (David Abram, Becoming Animal).

Toe First or Whole Body?

 Middle Fork Yuba RiverWhat’s your style?  It’s a hot day and you know the river is still winter cold. Do you dive in head first, or wade out slowly, letting your body accommodate to the creeping cold until it feels OK?  I’m decidedly the last.  Cautious, I guess.  Let others test the waters. I’ll follow soon.

I’m now seven days into the free trial of Scrivener, the novel writing program I mentioned last post.  Twenty-one more days to decide.  I could have plunked down my money, bought it out right, but that’s not my style.  I was afraid I’d feel overwhelmed learning a new program, so it seemed sensible to test it out first.  But as I inch deeper into the program and learn a bit more each day, I find the water’s just fine!  In fact, in one week I’ve organized my outline to the end of the book.

Sometimes I do jump.   I admit I’d wanted to play the cello for twenty years, but it took me only one week after playing with a friend’s cello, to rent a cello and start my first lesson.  The cold water was exhilarating!   Sadly, after inspiring me for two and a half years, my teacher, David Eby, is moving to Portland.  (Seems everyone’s moving there.  Before that it was Seattle; before that San Francisco).  I’m waiting to see where I go with my cello playing and whether I’ll dip or dive. ( I’m ready to dive!)

The truth I’m learning is that being cautious can be a waste of time.  The longer you live, the less time you have to do it all.  So I’ll stop writing here, purchase my Scrivener, and go full steam ahead into “The Desk!”

 

© All materials copyright Shirley DicKard, 2012 – 2013, except as otherwise noted.

To Scrive or not to Scrive?

My DesktopThat is the question. A writing friend recently introduced me to Scrivener, a writing management tool that authors use to compose and manage their novel or large projects.

Writing a novel is more complex and messy than I’d imagined.  My desk and computer files are bulging with historical research, character sketches,  plot outlines, articles documenting today’s environmental red flags and projected dystopic scenarios (I love people who forward these to me!),  photographs and art, downloads, inspirations, old and current drafts . . . you get the picture.

The thought of learning a new computer program, however, starts my chest tightening and forehead throbbing, until that familiar dread of it’s way too complicated for me takes over.  Just ask my husband and son-in-law!  They’ve helped me over the threshold into new electronic territories.  I now even have a smart phone now and love it!

Am I ready to spend my days on another electronic learning curve?  I’m undecided.  Scrivener Tutorials promise amazing tools to navigate and integrate all the processes of writing. I’ll have everything under one roof, all my stuff at my fingertips.  Quick, efficient.  Will this help me move my novel faster to completion?  I’m really ready.  On the other hand, what I’m doing works well enough. Will I just be adding new levels of frustration to my writing?

Let me know if you have pros and cons to add.   In the meantime, think I’ll just jump in and try their free 30-day trial.  Stay tuned.

 

© All materials copyright Shirley DicKard, 2012 – 2013, except as otherwise noted.

Amisha Speaks: 2088

The Desk
The Desk

It wasn’t easy.  I had to materialize at my Great-Grandmother Shirley’s bedside one night to convince her to extend her novel into the future. The Desk should be more than a family history, I told her. It’s a story of women’s power to work within the larger arc of past, present and future as advocates for the earth.

I’ve been feeding her bits and pieces of my world as she writes. Since she’s going to be introducing me at the Women’s Writing Salon April 27th,  I thought I’d use her blog to tell you more about my world – some familiar, some the unchecked progress of bad ideas.

I enter the story as Dr. Amisha Hoplin, a 50 years old Pediatrician working at the University Medical Center in San Francisco. In poor health myself, I’ve just received devastating news for my patients.  I’ve also been haunted by memories of the old family homestead and whispers of an old desk . . . .

By 2088, Corporations have become a third branch of the Federal Legislature with the same vote as the Senate and House. Nothing gets through the impenetrable Corporate Coalition. Water, power, food, are controlled by HumanaCorps, and now everything’s falling apart. Medical research has stopped altogether. Forget finding cures–just find something to market that patients will need.  Like PharmFood, designed for the rampant increase of food intolerances brought on by genetic-tinkering.

No more electronic devices. Pebble-sized gel Chips, inserted behind the ear of every baby replace computers, i-phones, touch pads, GPS, televisions, etc.  Their fine micro-rootlets form neural attachments with the brain.   So much easier than carting around personal devises.  HumanaCorps monitors your interests and whereabouts to instantly inform you of consumables you should want.  In a nearly paperless world, search requests are fed to you through  Insta.Info, while transmissions of personal creativity are discouraged.

San Francisco has been re-arranged as people frantically respond to the rising sea and changing weather.  Here’s a excerpt from the novel.

As the Pedi-Cab entered Golden Gate Park at 19th Avenue though a thin perimeter of trees, a subdued silence and oily saltiness permeated the air.  Submerged structures at the end of the avenues made it hazardous to sail or row close to the shoreline, so the city had cut down a swath of trees through the park so boats could access the new city center.  The Golden Gate Channel.  Hah!  Two solar buoys marked the entrance. Amisha closed her eyes to avoid seeing the fallen trees, and drifted into a light sleep.  When the pedi-cab cyclist pulled up to her faded pink stucco house on 25th Avenue, he paused for a trembler, then nudged her shoulder and helped her up the front steps.

If you’re around on Saturday, April 27th at 4 pm, come by Tome’s Bookstore in Grass Valley for the Women’s Writing Salon.  Shirley will be reading along with Pat Miller, Sands Hall, Jan Fischler, Eleanor MacDonald and Jean Varda.

 

 

© All materials copyright Shirley DicKard, 2012 – 2013, except as otherwise noted.

 

Great-Grandmother Emily’s Vision of Universal Peace -1915

I was awestruck when I read this 1915 article about my Great Grandmother Emily Hoppin (the inspiration for Eliza in “The Desk”) after she was elected President of the California Federation of Women’s Clubs.

Mrs. Hoppin 1915

“Mrs. Hoppin is an optimist . . . even in the face of the greatest war of all ages (WWI), she still hopes that work for peace, which she feels must be largely woman’s work, will not – cannot – be in vain. She anticipates that the condition we pray for, the prevalence of an effective sentiment for universal peace, may come about suddenly and unexpectedly, likening it to the movement for the abolition of slavery, which seemed a far, Eutopian vision in the minds of its supporters. Practically all they dared hope for was the restriction and limiting of the traffic – and then, of a sudden, Emancipation! – more glorious than their fondest dreams! And so she prays it may be with the peace sentiment.”                                               (The Overland Monthly, 1915 – “The New Executive in Feminine Clubdom”)

Though I also consider myself an optimist, I get easily discouraged by what feels like a tsunami of greed and self-interest. I lose hope. Think of today’s big issues: gun control, the Afghanistan war, reproductive choices, the right to marry, genetically-modified foods, etc. (obviously reflects my liberal perspective). Sure, I sign internet petitions, donate to causes, make an occasional call to elected representatives, but I recognize a little voice that says, “I’ll do what I can, but it’s probably hopeless – too much money and corporate interest backing it.”

And then I read my Great-Grandmother’s words and come face to face with the paucity of my vision. Remember Ken Keyes’ book, The Hundredth Monkey? He wrote: “When only a limited number of people know of a new way, it may remain the conscious property of these people. But there is a point at which if only one more person tunes-in to a new awareness, a field is strengthened so that this awareness reaches almost everyone!”

I return to Great Grandma’s vision that “universal peace may come about suddenly and unexpectedly, likening it to the movement for the abolition of slavery, which seemed a far, Eutopian vision in the minds of its supporters. . . then, of a sudden, Emancipation! – more glorious than their fondest dreams!”

I realize now my work is to join with others to hold a strong, clear image of the world I want. A world where guns are registered like cars, and users are tested for skills and safety. Where any committed couple can marry. Where the earth has a sustainable population because women can control conception. Where we learn to live with less energy … and so on. I encourage you to think about the images you hold – and how they can add to the tipping point.

 

© All materials copyright Shirley DicKard, 2012 – 2013, except as otherwise noted.

Nature Forced into Unnatural Acts.

Row of trees cut for powerlineIt’s such a common sight near power lines, but every time I see this, my heart aches for the beheaded tree.

It was growing there long before man ran his electricity in straight lines and chopped off anything that got in his way.

 

Driving across the Sacramento Valley to Woodland where my ancestors settled during  the Gold Rush, I took lots of photos.

Most were scenes of vibrant mustard flowers carpeting the ground of cloudy pink fruit orchards. But some Mustard in fruit orchardorchards were bereft of any ground vegetation.Furrowed field I thought the fields of dark earth all furrowed and ready for planting were stunning at first, until I noticed the absolute absence of weeds.        Hmmmm.

Man’s need supersedes that of  nature most times.  I’ve learned recently that oil companies are hovering like bees a bit south in the central valley in one of the richest deposits of oil in the United States called the Monterey Shale.  Get ready for the next Gold Rush made possible by hydraulic fracking.

Fracking creates fractures in rocks thousands of feet below the surface by injecting them with water laced with chemicals and sand, allowing oil or gas to flow out.  Fracking received a specific exception from the Clean Water Act in the 2005 Energy Bill, so oil companies don’t have to reveal what chemicals they use.

Again, with no regard to Mother Earth, some 30 chemicals including hydrochloric acid, are injected into her body to extract oil. Fracking and disposal of fracking waste has been linked to groundwater pollution, drinking water contamination and earthquakes.

How long until Earth fights back, like an abused woman who’s finally had enough?  In the meantime, as Dick always says, Go Gently.

Links to read more on the Monterey Shale:

http://earthfirstnews.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/fracking-boom-looms-in-californias-monterey-shale/

http://www.newtimesslo.com/cover/6555/californias-silent-oil-rush/

Thanks Debra!

Even more stories . . .

 Used Books that Found Me
Used Books that Found Me

I love reading people’s stories of how used books magically found them.

Got one yourself?  Send it and I’ll add it to the collection!

First, one from Rochelle Bell.

“One of my favorite authors is Sylvia Boorstein, a Buddhist teacher and a faithful Jew. One day I decided to get the rest of the books she has written. I realized she was aging and probably would not be writing very much longer. I went to Amazon.com and began looking for her work. There were several, and I quickly hit the “buy” button and was done with it.

A few days later the books came and I realized I’d been too quick on the button. One of the books was written by another author and only the forward was written by Sylvia.

My partner, Rod grabbed that book titled “How to be Sick” – A Buddhist-inspired guide for the chronically ill and their caregivers. Rod has been caring for his brother as of late, and he loves the book and the wisdom it imparts.

So, what seemed like a mistake for me turned into a gift for Rod.”

*   *  *

And now from her partner, Rod Bondurant.

An old National Geographic started it.

“I don’t recall the name….do you, Mabel?” Mabel shook her head and the Delhi librarian turned her steely gaze on me.  I just wanted a book, and I was being interrogated in the silent old library in upstate New York where old school New England culture was still present.

I really didn’t want to go into it all but I half-heartedly launched into the story of my parents living there, and now my reclusive brother living in their house.

No stranger was just going to walk in and get a book here.  I decided to get to the point.  “I’m looking for a copy of Charles Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle.  Two pair of eyes were suddenly wide and fixed on me. Their thrill showed: This man wants a real book! He knows who Darwin is!  A flurry of eager activity located the book 200 miles away.  I had to explain more about how I didn’t expect to be around long enough to receive the copy.  I had returned to Delhi to help my brother deal with serious cancer and I was hoping to go home soon.

To salvage my library visit and honor the staff’s enthusiasm, I requested direction to the Travel section.  I took in the bleak half-filled shelf……A few old Fodor’s, a picture book or two, a few musty local history anthologies, and a shabby gray copy of The Peninsula by Louise Dickinson Rich.  A vaguely familiar name.

She was one of my mother’s favorite authors.  Mother always had dreams of “going back to the land”.  She would have been a good hippie.  We actually did vagabond around in a converted VW bus during my high school summers.

Louise Rich had chronicled her own depression-era adventure in the Maine woods where she and her husband operated a fishing lodge.  The difficulties and making do involved in eking out an existence in the 1930’s was well described in We Took To The Woods.  Louise was also something of a cultural anthropologist and studied and delightfully recorded the values and workings of small town life.  The memory of that book reminded me that my previous interrogation was a precious remnant of the peculiar intimacy of small towns.

I grabbed The Peninsula.  It had slumbered on the shelf. The old fashioned card with checkout dates showed it had been checked out only about once a year since 1963. I suspect one of the entries was my mother’s.  The Peninsula kept me spellbound.  Louise was now leading a different and solitary life in the early ‘50’s on the Maine coast.  She saw that “progress” was coming; the world she was surrounded with was going to disappear and she wanted to chronicle it.  She also shared her personal opening to the special natural beauty and heartwarming culture she found.

I haven’t yet read Darwin’s account about a now lost South American tribe, but the search had brought me the gift of another story closer to home.”