An old gal and her man left the town For the country where cornfields abound The stalks grew as high as an alpaca’s eye But the alpacas weren’t around The horses were plentiful, though, They really put on quite a show With their colorful hides and long tails besides Flicking at flies as they go The cattle all stood in the shade Not wanting their colors to fade When one gave a moo, the rest did it too Like a fine bovine choral brigade The emu hid out in the back With his wing feathers all hanging slack Not liking the heat, he made his retreat And headed straight home to his shack But the wallabies had a fine time Nipping green grass in its prime In their tree-covered lot they weren’t too hot And so they inspired this rhyme
Outdoor time is here, the season for craft fairs, farmers’ markets, and similar events. Yesterday I jumped into it with both feet, a folding chair and table, two easel stands, three rolling suitcases, and a collapsible wagon.
My sweet husband helped me set up a booth at the Ohio Author’s Book Fair. The day was as fair as could be, dry, sunny, and not too breezy. We began inside the Destination Outlets Mall in Jeffersonville but soon moved out to the courtyard to make ourselves more visible.
My personalities must be as different as my pen names. Both J Levesque, the writer of poetry and memoirs, and Jora Dublinn, the sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal adventure author, enjoy writing in isolation, like most introverts. However, my publisher self, Windwritten Press, loves getting out and meeting people.
Back in the day when I made metal jewelry and blue-jean clothing beloved by hippies, I did lots of craft shows. Needless to say, it’s been a while. I’d forgotten how much fun that is. Fellow authors, readers, and would-be writers are all welcome to stop and have a chat.
If you see me out there, come on by and say hello.
Books had ruined my eyes, That’s what the neighbors said. I doubted that. I could see perfectly well Even after hours and hours with Black Beauty, or Sherlock Holmes, or Alice in Wonderland, or Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, or At the Back of the North Wind, my eyes felt fine. The words remained as clear as ever, from the beginning of a story to the end.
Nonetheless, a note from school said I needed my vision checked. I had failed the eye exam.
Now, that was hard to imagine. Never had I failed any test at school. In fact, that eye exam was scarcely a test at all. It was simply, “look at this,” “look at that.” “Which is clearer?” How could they grade me on whether their charts were clear?
I didn’t voice that question to Mother and Dad, however. At Dr. Hunt’s optometrist shop, I looked through gargantuan binoculars. He, too, asked me to assess the clarity of his materials, which I happily did.
Two weeks later, we returned to claim my unwanted prize, a pair of very pink, very plastic spectacles, unlovely to behold. The good thing about putting them on was not having to look at them.
Oddly, though, they had an Alice-like effect. Objects appeared larger. And if I moved my head too fast, the edges got wavy.
Dizzy and prancing like a high-stepping Black Beauty over the now uncertain floor, I followed Mother and Dad out of Dr. Hunt’s office into an unrecognizable world. The sidewalk loomed up in full 3-D, with cracks that gaped like drainage ditches. Surely, I would never step on one of those again.
On the car ride home, we passed a new landscape of bigger, brighter trees and an amazingly complex field of corn. Safe at home, I worked my way through what should have been familiar terrain to the picture window.
“Wow, Mother, look at this!”
She came running. “What is it?”
“Look at Tracy’s house!”
She looked, didn’t react, looked back at me. “What, sweetie?”
“The bricks! You can see the individual bricks in their house. And all the little lines of mortar. Look at that. And their trees! You can see every single leaf.” Surely Mother laughed, but I didn’t notice. Awestruck, I simply stood and gazed at this beautiful, new, infinitely detailed world.
I wrote that reflection many years ago. But just now, t experienced another miracle. In two brief procedures, the eye surgeon implanted multi-focal lenses inside my eyes. My vision is better now than ever before. Amazed and grateful, I can only imagine what advances the future may bring.
In March 2020, we were in Florida, cruising the beach for places to eat, drink, and make merry with family and friends.
Early reports of the coronavirus didn’t alarm us. We just needed to maintain a safe “social distance.” Then we learned that thousands of people were dead or desperately ill around the world. Hospitals struggled to provide care. We rushed home to Ohio,
Based on the latest recommendations, we expected to self-isolate for fourteen days before we could get together with our Ohio son and his family. The reality was different.
During the pandemic, I traveled far and wide, with no ill effects. The secret? Virtual travel, of course.
I’m not referring to documentaries and travelogues. I escape by listening to my subconscious invent stories, or by reading other authors’ work. Here are a few of the writers who kept me from feeling isolated.
Donna Leon’s twenty-nine book Commissario Brunetti series carries us to Venice. Murder, intrigue, and a thoroughly admirable police detective in the modern world, surrounded by a historic setting. Thought-provoking, stirring adventures.
Anne Hillerman has continued her father Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn and Chee mystery novels set in the Navajo Nation. She also developed Bernie Manuelito, Chee’s love interest and now wife, into a prime viewpoint character.
James Scott Bell’s Mike Romeo Thrillers introduce us to a former cage fighter who has studied plenty of philosophy and knows how to apply it, along with a little muscle. Most of the action takes place around Los Angeles, with a few trips into the desert.
Peter Grainger takes us to Norfolk, England, in each of his DC Smith Investigations. A great cast of characters, tough murder investigations, and a look at present-day Britain keep the reader highly involved.
Bruce Beckham’s Detective Inspector Skelgill Investigates series is set in England’s Lake District. Skelgill would rather be fishing, but he and his team solve the crimes, regardless.
Viveca Sten’s Sandhamn Murders series is set in Stockholm and the nearby islands. A police inspector and a prosecutor, friends from childhood, work together to bring the killers to justice.
So that’s a sample of where I’ve been during lockdown. I hope you traveled as far as I did
We saw a redwing blackbird perched on a cattail in the swamp. For me, that has always been the true sign of spring in Michigan and Ohio. As welcome as robins may be, they are unreliable harbingers, since they hide out in the woods year ’round.
The next sign will be green shoots of crocus, daffodil, hyacinth, and tulip. My favorite has always been the tiny grape hyacinth that carpeted the woods where I lived. And of course, forsythia will wave its golden arms to greet the sun.
We all need that sunshine, the longer days, the ability to escape our homes and vehicles and absorb fresh air. When we lived in Florida, and the seasons were less distinct, we were grateful to be outdoors at any time of year, but we didn’t experience this sense of springtime liberation.
Spring will bring rain and mud, as well, but what a small price to pay for the glorious growth of greenery that will result. Shrubs and trees will burst forth in a rainbow of celebration. Here, viburnum, lilac, crabapple, cherry, apple, pear, and the strange northern magnolia will praise the sun and shower down petals. In Florida, robust southern magnolia, azalea, jacaranda, crepe myrtle, golden rain tree, orange, and kapok will take their turn providing brilliant accents.
Sunlight awakens red buds on barren branches Gloria to life
May dread corona be forgot and never brought to mind And masks and distancing go rot and days of quaran-tyne These days of quaran-tyne, my friends, long days of quaran-tyne We’ll share a dinner table yet when we’re out of quaran-tyne We two have run about the beach and gathered shells divine But we can’t even drive there now since days of quaran-tyne We two have sailed the dolphin tour from morning sun ‘til dine But we’re confined to house and home in these days of quaran-tyne These days of quaran-tyne, my friends, long days of quaran-tyne We’ll walk along the gulf shore yet, when we’re out of quaran-tyne And here, we’ll surely hug our grands and surely spend our time Enjoying their great company when we’re out of quaran-tyne We’ll sit with friends and family and share a glass of wine And talk all through the whole day long when there’s no quaran-tyne But now we’ll do what we must do protecting yours and mine And pray to conquer covid soon and end our quaran-tyne These days of quaran-tyne, my friends, long days of quaran-tyne We’ll share a dinner table yet, when we’re out of quaran-tyne
With deep regards to Bobby Burns, and a happy new year to you all!
I wrote this the first Christmas after I moved from the frozen north to sunny Florida. Merry Christmas.
No El, no elves at Marshall Field, no carols in the snow, no boozy, bluesy Wells Street bars, no Second City show. No Brookfield penguins on the rocks, no windy cityscape, no tower view of Navy Pier, no skaters on the lake. No Calumet expressway, jammed and iced on Christmas day. No steamy, smoky place to go to watch Da Bears at play. No more Shear Madness in the north. No, here the weather’s swell. No reason to be sad, no. Kiss the gang and say NOEL.
Lacy stretched to open the rough wooden door. Cold mist flowed out, clinging to her bare shoulders and arms, making her shiver. Visiting the icehouse was like stepping through a mirror into winter.
Inside, the heavy sawdust scent reminded her of Christmas trees while, outside, the lake sparkled in the August sun. Ice blocks were stacked higher than Daddy’s head. Lacy walked down the row, skimming the blocks with her fingers, feeling them melt a little under her touch.
That’s when she saw the woman in the white dress standing in the corner, as she did in Lacy’s bedroom at night, looking at her and baby Jack. The woman’s black eyes were like holes in a face as pale as clouds.
When the cloud woman moved closer, Lacy saw the stack of ice right through her.
With the tongs, Daddy grabbed a block off the top row. His muscles bunched up when he pulled it down. The cloud woman put her hand on his shoulder. Daddy shivered so hard, the ice block fell out of the tongs and hit him on the head.
It thunked to the wooden floor. Daddy fell right beside it and didn’t move again.
Lacy darted out the door and down the dirt road, shouting, “Mom! Come quick!”
As Lacy slammed their trailer’s screen door open, Mom wiped her hands on a dish towel. “What’s the matter, sugar?”
“Daddy’s hurt. The ice.”
Mom grabbed baby Jack and ran. When Lacy reached the icehouse, Mom was already bent over Daddy, who was on his side with his head in a red puddle. The cloud woman was standing beside him, smiling. Mom reached right through her leg to touch Daddy’s neck. The woman faded away.
Shivering hard, Mom said, “Go get Sonny.”
Lacy ran to the trailer past theirs and pounded on the metal next to the screen door. Daddy’s friend opened it.
“What’s up, kiddo?”
“Daddy’s hurt. In the icehouse. Mom says to get you.”
Sonny ran so fast that, by the time Lacy caught up, he was already carrying Daddy like a baby. Mom put Jack in his playpen and called someone on the telephone.
When she hung up, she said to Sonny, “I thought our troubles were over when that woman died. What’ll we do if–”
Sonny hugged her and patted her back. “Don’t you worry. He’ll be fine.”
He went next door and brought his wife Rita back with him. When an ambulance came, Mom got in and went with Daddy. Rita made supper and put Lacy and Jack to bed. Afterward, Lacy heard her and Sonny playing cards in the kitchen.
Because the bedroom door was open a crack, she saw the cloud woman in the corner, beside the baby’s crib. The woman reached out and stroked his face.
Jack cried until he started choking.
Rita came to burp him, but he kept screaming and coughing. The cloud woman stood where she was. Rita walked right through her. She shivered so hard she almost dropped the baby.
In the other room, the phone rang. Sonny answered. His deep voice got louder, but so did Jack’s coughing. Then everything went quiet.
“Dead?” Sonny shouted. “He can’t be!”
Rita screamed and ran out of the bedroom. “The baby’s not breathing!”
The cloud woman smiled, then she faded away.
After the funerals, Mom hardly ever talked except late at night when she whispered her prayers and asked God to forgive her. When she cried, she didn’t make a sound.
The weather got colder. Snow came early, so Lacy and her best friend Nan went trick-or-treating with snowsuits under their cowgirl costumes. In spite of the trailers’ lights, there were lots of shadows. The dark and the ice underfoot made Lacy shiver.
After walking halfway around the trailer park, her toes were frozen, and her plastic pumpkin was nearly full of candy. While she was unwrapping a gumball, a pickup truck came around the curve.
Lacy backed away, shouting, “Look out!”
Nan kept walking like she didn’t see the truck, which was coming fast. Lacy ran to push her out of its way. Nan went stumbling off the road. At the same time, the cloud woman appeared out of the shadows. As she reached toward Lacy, something hit Lacy hard and knocked her down.
Kids and moms screamed. Dads shouted. Nan’s scared face stared down at her.
The cloud woman stroked Lacy’s forehead and smiled. Her touch was like ice. Lacy shivered. Then everything turned to fog and faded away.
During this hiatus from normal life, I have created more book covers than books. It has become a compulsion and a way to vary my visual environment.
When I began to feel greedy about using so many backgrounds from professional providers, I decided to rely more on my own photos. I am definitely not a pro in that regard, but some scenery works well despite the photographer’s limitations.
Then, for a totally original twist, I decided to use photographs of my old portraits, textile constructions, and paintings. Here are some of the results. They may or may not all see the light of day on actual books.