Thursday, April 24, 2014

At the Beginning

First things first and then we'll get to the meaty stuff. Yes, I ditched doing the A to Z challenge early on. I found that it was too much of a distraction from doing what I really needed to be doing, part of which was working on my novel.

So, as a sort of apology for leaving you stranded and as an enticement to come back for more, (and, let's face it, because I like to tease) I'm offering you the opening couple of pages from my novel. The working title of my book is I've Seen Rain.

And now....
“I’m Luke. Luke Horvath.” I held out my hand to her and at the same time I realized that it still had blood all over it. I withdrew it, giving her a sheepish shrug. “Sorry, I…”

She gave me an understanding smile and a slight wave in return. “It’s okay. My name is Annie. Masters.”

We were standing by the back of my truck. I picked an old rag from the bed of it and tried unsuccessfully to wipe the blood from my hand. I breathed a heavy sigh. “Well, Annie Masters. All things considered, it is nice to meet you. I really appreciate you stopping to help.” I paused. I knew what I was about to ask, so I had to steel myself for rejection. “Annie Masters, would you consider having dinner with me tonight?”

She laughed, and I can tell you, it was everything I’d hoped her laughter would be. It was clear, and loud, and it sang through the air like angels doing opera. “Is this how you pick up all your women?” she asked. “You find somebody’s poor, wounded dog by the side of the road, wait for a fair damsel to come along and offer help, and then whisk her off her feet with your strong, sensitive male…” She waved her hand up and down at me, searching for the right word. “Uh… thing?”

That got me laughing. “My male thing? We just saved Ol’ Pooch from certain death, returned him to his grateful human companion, and you want to discuss my…“ I cleared my throat. “My male thing? Oh, this is off to such an auspicious start. You could at least agree to have dinner with me before we go there.”

I loved her smile already, the way it lit up her eyes, the way one corner of her mouth curled up slightly more than the other. If she wasn't careful, I was going to be thoroughly in love with her in the space of ten minutes. “Well,” Annie said. “How can I say no to a flannel wearing, blood-soaked guy with a strong, sensitive male thing. My dreams have been answered!” She feigned swooning, raising the back of her right hand to her forehead.

I looked down at my boots as though they were the center of the universe and muttered, “A smart ass. She would have to be a smart ass, wouldn't she. She’s probably more trouble than she’s worth.” The boots said nothing. Annie, however, coughed politely and whispered, “I can hear you, you know.” I looked back up at her, grinning. “How ‘bout I pick you up at 7? Play it casual, nothing fancy. That gives me plenty of time to clean up and stow the gear I was hauling back before I came upon Ol’ Pooch.”

Annie was still smiling. She tilted her head to the left, making no attempt to hide the fact that she was studying me. That kind of boldness in a woman gives me goose bumps. The right kind of goose bumps. Finally she nodded, as if answering some question to which I hadn't been privy. “Seven works for me. You know the old red caboose up on Mountain Loop?” When I nodded, she continued. “That’s my place.”

“Are you kidding? I drive by there all the time. I've always been intrigued by it, wondering who lives there, what it looks like on the inside, how they managed to tote a caboose onto that land. Wow. You live there.”

“That I do,” she answered. “Play your cards right and not only will I tell you all about it, but I’ll give you the $1.67 tour.”

“A buck 67? Boy, that’s pretty steep.” I gave her my best aw-shucks-I’m-just-a-poor-boy face.

“Yep.” She winked. “A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, what with the scarcity of eligible guys waiting by the side of the road.” With the flat of her hand, she smacked the side of my truck twice, then walked back toward her own truck. “See you at 7, Luke.”

“See you then, Annie.” That smile.

© Barb Black

Friday, April 4, 2014

D is for Dowsing


I want to live
where the sweet water flows
     and taste
         the clear,
             running dream.

I want to burrow into, and
dig down through the layers,
dig through all the layers


a whisper
    and a trickle
      begins the flood

Oh, quench my dowsing soul.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

C is for Cages

The small man
Builds cages for everyone
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
For the

A few years back I wrote a post based on this, my favorite of all things Hafiz. I love its whimsical gravitas.

In my post back then I admonished everyone to become a key dropper. I offer humble apology here, as I was wrong.

A couple of weeks ago, while searching for something other unrelated thing, I once again stumbled across this poem in a book of quote-y stuff that I've written down. I read it. Then I read it again. And once more. That was when I heard the ice floe begin to crack and the real stream of What Is at first trickled, and then tripped and burbled through. Okay. Okay. It was an epiphany. But I swear I heard ice cracking.

We can't all be key droppers all the time and it was silly of me to expect people to be so. It was silly of me to expect myself to be so. Because, guess what? That's not what Hafiz's poem is about. Not at all.

Hafiz was referring to us, as ourselves. As our complete selves. We are all of those characters, all the time. What's more is that we need to be. It is part of our process, part of our psychological make up. It is how we recognize and define where we are on our journey and what needs to happen next.

We are The Small Man. We build cages for others and for ourselves. We want everything boxed and organized in tidy lines. We might say we don't, but we do. Gone are our wild instincts; gone is the feral need to be awake and alive in every single moment. We fool ourselves into thinking that if we have order, we are safe. We think, "If I stay in this job, with this income, everything is fine." We think, "If he would just pick his socks up off the floor, I'd be happy." We think, "If I wear this style, they will accept me." We cage everything. We cage everyone. We don't just build the cage; we are the cage.

It's good for a while. We have structure, and safety, and there aren't a lot of startling surprises. But that gets really old after a while, doesn't it? We realize that our shoulders are cramped from trying to fit into a confined space. We find that the air is a stale and stifling. We aren't seeing the things and places we want to see, because they are Out There; we aren't interacting with the people we want to be with because they are Over There. We're here, stuck in a cage of our own making, and it dawns on us that we hate it.

So, we get rebellious. We see the moon through the slats in the cage and our ancient instincts stir. We chuff, and pace, and our agitation with being stuck builds to the howling point. We let it out, softly at first. It comes as a low moan. But we hear ourselves and the noise we make, and in it we recall who we were when the Universe was new. It is our true voice. It incites us until finally, we let loose with a long, loud, unrestrained keening. We don't let up. Because this is who we are. And we have had e-fucking-nough.

We become The Beautiful, Rowdy Prisoner. We don't care what the Small Man is up to. We're gonna make some noise. We're gonna party like it's year one. We're gonna get visceral, and real, and be authentic, and to hell with the cage. And we even say that every single time we bump into the walls of the cage. We say, "I'm gonna be visceral and real and authentic and to hell with the cage!"

In stoops The Sage, roused and amused by our boisterous behavior. He can't wait to see us run free in the moonlight. He thrills at the thought of us gulping the fresh night air. I imagine him humming a quiet, tuneless melody, a slight smile on his lips, as he begins to drop keys - magic keys that fall right into the locks and unhinge the doors.

Finally, finally, finally... we are free. Free to run wild in all the ecstatic, unfettered, fierce grace that was ours for the claiming since the beginning of time.

We are these things. We need to accept that we are The Small Man, that we are The Cage, that we are The Beautiful, Rowdy Prisoners just as much as we are The Sage.

We are those things. Yes. And... We are so much more.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

B is for Barbarian

Burning Through

barbarian: -noun; a person in a savage, primitive state; uncivilized person

Various people, myself included, have often referred to me as Barbarian. I like it. It's a great amalgamation of my first and middle (Ann) names. There was a time when I used it as part of my email address. Once, when I called myself that, someone asked me why I would refer to myself in such pejorative terms. 

I can understand why some would think I was being unkind to myself or self-deprecating, but I really don't feel that's the case. I like the moniker. It works.

My own mother would agree on certain principles. Hard as she tried, and much to her chagrin, she never could turn my sister and me into proper little ladies. I will never be at home and comfortable in a dress and heels. Ever. Jeans, sweats, and t-shirts are my standard garb. Anything else on me, although I do clean up well when I have to, just makes me feel false, and fidgety, and grumpy.

But let's forget about appearances for a minute or three.

The Greeks originated the term barbarian. It was meant to refer to anyone who wasn't Greek - people who were considered to be outsiders, social outcasts. Again, it works. I've felt like an outsider all my life. I've never adhered to any definition of "normal." Proudly. I've never understood societal boundaries. Good job, Mom... I was well named. Barbara means "stranger."

I'm in touch with my inner savage, my primitive wild woman. I think that must be part of any creative soul, part of anyone who has the ability to look at the clouds and see elephants cavorting with goldfish. Most definitely there is a sense of savageness in making art and in writing. There is a need to go to a darker instinct in order to translate the soul gunk into something tangible. Well, for me there is.

I joke with people that I'm a direct descendant of Attila the Hun. Given my Hungarian heritage, that may or may not be true. I say it anyway, adding that I tend to storm the castle now and apologize later... if at all.

Uncivilized? Yes. While it isn't obvious to everyone upon meeting me, I tend to go against the grain of standard civility and social norms: 

-I'm blunt in my opinions and I don't hold back when I need to express them. I'm pragmatic and unfluffy. I tend to not like what everyone else likes.

-I've never been a fan of Elvis Presley. I think his music has a ring of insincerity to it. Right around the same time that Elvis was being lauded, there was a humble black man playing guitar (Playing?! He made that thing talk!), hopping across the stage, and singing his heart out. His musical influence upon rockers for the past 60+ years is tremendous and largely untold. That man was Chuck Berry - he should have been the one that the music world crowned and hailed as The King

-While I'm very well read, I think little of the works of Shakespeare. Sure, he came up with some great lines, and sure, you have to read his work with a nod toward the age in which it was written, but even so, it's all a bit overblown and fanciful. 

-I'm not girly-girl. I don't do manicures or pedicures or hairstyles or make-up or endless clothes shopping. I'm the one picking steak out of my teeth while others nibble on salad and talk of fashion.

-I'd rather sit by the river eating a cold take-out hamburger than sit in a restaurant amid 50 other patrons and have waitstaff stop by every five minutes to interrupt my contemplation or conversation just to ask if everything is okay and do I need anything else.

-Unlike most of my peers, I have absolutely no adoration or nostalgic yearning for the 80's - I don't like 80's music, 80's TV shows, 80's attitudes, and 80's hair and clothing styles make me want to regurgitate everything I've eaten since 1967. 

-I'm an atheist. Never mind that I do have a solid code of ethics and a ridiculously spiritual life, non-atheists tend to see a declaration of atheism as spewed sewage from the mindset of someone who is savage and uncivilized. Atheism is often seen as something that must be cleaned up, swept into a bin, and incinerated.

You see? I am a Barbarian. And that's just fine with me. Keep your clean white togas and well-ordered society. I'll be over here in my sweats, getting hopped up on caffeine, painting, writing, cussing in true, rowdy, barbarian form, unapologetically attacking castles, and running wild through the woods.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A is for Adore

This month I am participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Today, April 1, we begin with the letter "A".

verb: to regard with the utmost esteem, love, and respect; to honor

In the book Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Anne Tyler writes, "There ought to be a whole separate language, she thought, for words that are truer than other words - for perfect absolute truth."

As a writer, and as a reader, I often find my thoughts drifting toward that quote. So many times I write, thinking, I'm not saying exactly what I mean to say. It isn't, as Tyler wishes, perfect absolute truth. That feeling is never more prevalent when I refer to love, and especially the love that I feel for my mate.

I can fling clichés all over the place that nail my feelings for him, but also somehow fall short and... well... sound cliché. I'm crazy for him. I'm head over heels for him. He makes the sun rise. Every day with him is like Christmas. I love him. All are true statements, but none of them the perfect absolute truth.

Let's face it, there are lots and lots of people that I love. By love I don't mean a generic, I love everybody (which, I nearly do were it not for a handful who just make it so damned difficult). I mean, there are people I love - people I identify as being part of my tribe; people I'd drop my cup of coffee and chocolate for in order to be there for them; people who affect my life in such a way that I can't imagine it without them. That kind of love. I feel it all the time. But, the love I feel for my mate? There's something esoteric there (as there should be), that I haven't been able, wordsmith that I am, to put into words. To say with perfect absolute truth.

The other day I was thumbing through the dictionary. If you know me at all, you know that's just who I am and you'll love me anyway. So, then. I was thumbing through the dictionary and came across the word adore. I'm not sure I've ever looked at the definition of it. This time I did, and nearly burst into tears as I proclaimed to my art supplies and bookshelves, "That's IT! That's perfect absolute truth for how I feel about him!"

Adore fits. It's right. It's right in terms of how I feel and it's right in terms of how I want to be perceived and understood whenever I talk about him. He is an impressive human being, but in my life, which I'm blessed enough to say is full of impressive human beings, he is the one I hold in utmost esteem, because I know he holds my heart with more reverence than anyone else in this world. He is the one I love beyond all others. He is the one I respect, not so much because of who he is to me, but because of who he is to others. His kindness isn't just for me; his willingness is unflagging; he shares his intelligence; his sense of humor knows no bounds; his humanity stretches to everyone he meets. I told you, he is an impressive human being. It is my honor, not just to choose him, but to be chosen by him.

I adore him, in all the vast depth of that word. I adore him.

That is the perfect absolute truth.