Tuesday, July 31, 2018


Rick Bass decides to visit writers who mentored him when he was in the process of learning how to be a writer. These are not merely social visits. He  honors each person with a home cooked meal— actually a feast. And he takes a young writer with him— someone he mentors.

All these meals, their preparations , and the visits become a book — The Traveling  Feast— On the Road and at the Table With My Heroes. Not all his heroes were open to the invitation. Mary Oliver said she needed to conserve her strength.

I Imagine locating and traveling to see and prepare a meal for those people in my life who acted as mentors. My culinary skills lack sophistication and tend to fall into the creation of simple meals requiring few utensils, pots, and time. 

Who would I visit? There was Nancy who lived in the Lewis Morris building and was an up and coming dyke. This was a time when the police made round ups of women dressed in masculine looking clothes. The law stated that you had to wear three pieces of female clothing. Nancy was my age and didn’t care that she wore jeans and boy’ s shirts. I think she lost that battle with our local elementary school— but changed as soon as she arrived home. 

Then I’d visit the woman who lived in a one room apartment and would ask us to go to the store and buy her Campbell soup. She talked to herself and told us to be wary of shadows. She knew all about pigeons and kept a coop on the building roof. The pigeons listened and understood. 

There was the teacher at a retreat who said what you strive for is the emotional truth of a piece of writing. Without that emotional truth, she said, you only have words.

It’s an intriguing exercise. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Pencils, Pens, Paper

Perhaps every teacher loves stationery— clips, folders, pencils, pens, erasers, and notebooks. Every year before school began I found myself roaming the aisles of stores dedicated to aficionados. Unfortunately many of the stores that catered to stationery lovers found their client base shrinking. Apps replaced paper. Of course all those items were still available at box stores or on line— but nothing replaces the feel of paper. Is the paper coarse, smooth, will it bleed when using a fountain pen?

Fortunately there is a store close by that , while not dedicated to only stationery items, still has an array of good paper notebooks.

So when the CW Pencils opened up a storefront store in New York City I was delighted. Recently they started carrying mechanical pencils. I never knew that “ the most iconic surviving mechanical pencil company is Autopoint, which was founded in 1919 in Chicago.”

And they are not only surviving, but doing well. A field trip calls.

I discovered that there are numerous people who eschew ball points, roller pens et al and love fountain pens. Back a bit I discovered an online pen store that carries a wide variety of pens and inks. The owners are young and knowledgeable. There are videos showing everything from the component parts to how to clean pens. Inks are analyzed and charts show the difference between brands when looking at specific colors. You can order samples of colors.

And when you order anything and open the package you find a book mark, thank you card with the packer’s name and a lollipop—and of course what you ordered.

And keeping with social media there’s an active pen and ink artists group on Facebook. Checking in there is akin to finding soulmates.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Things I Learned

1. crumbs turn into a banquet for those with empty cupboards 
2. looking back is not unlike holding a mirror and staring until the haze clears
3. if you forget to stack building blocks you can’t build a bridge
4. if you don’t string words together to form shapes  all that’s left are starts and stops
5. If you don't close all doors one may be open to you

Saturday, July 28, 2018

I Am Open to Listen

I time-travel back
Stand with a crowd and listen
to Moses spell it out

Friday, July 27, 2018

A Radical Thought

It’s hot, too hot, and the discomfort index is over 90 — but it’s no longer referred to that way. Now we say, “it feels  like 96 because the dew point is so high.”
             Language has a way of tilting what is said. Today I read a long article about the political situation in Poland. They are definitely tilting toward the right. I don’t have difficulty with true conservatives, but I do have a hard time when hate is one of the ingredients in their philosophy.
            We, too, need to use language judiciously. We can be open to the Holy Sparks within everyone and everything.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Another Path

I don’t want to be a Pollyanna, but after discovering that pieces I wrote are missing and thinking about how to plug the forty holes I am on a different track. Instead of spending time looking for the missing Open writings or attempting to re-write forty posts or seeking old poems that never appeared on my blog and posting those in the holes— I am wandering down a different road.

This is probably a message— move onto that story you keep talking about writing. Be open to new horizons. It isn’t as if I  have a contract for a book, or  thousands of followers. And admit it…sometimes you really need to twist and pull in order to accommodate the word open.

So be open to moving on. This doesn’t mean I won’t blog, but I will only use the word open if it fits. And now to write that story that’s been on the proverbial back burner.

And..I went back to previous years and there are gaps everywhere. I know what happened. Several months ago something went on my laptop. When I brought it in to Apple I remember being told that some things might be lost, “ Is everything backed up?” I thought I had checked all the possible  boxes for iCloud storage— but I never checked documents nor photos. But the photos I want to absolutely keep I store on an external hard drive.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Cleaning Up

It isn’t what you don’t know. It is what you do know and don’t do. I know that it is imperative to back up documents, files, folders or …

The or happened. I lost about twenty written pieces—all written with the word open. Now I need to scrounge through layers to find them—or write new pieces.

There are options—throw the towel in and say that writing one piece a day with the word OPEN embedded somewhere within the piece is a hairbrained idea. Or shoulder on and shovel out of this mess.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

.Emily’s Line. : Tell the truth but tell it slant

We all have a story to tell, to write, to sing. No one else has the words or recalls how the story unspooled from beginning to end. Each story branches out to include other words. Follow one line and it leads to other places—

If I began with a snowy evening and walking up a hill I’d find myself thinking of a mountain that leveled off on the top and a view of hollers. And then I’d recall driving up a mountain right into a moonshine operation and someone with a shotgun.

Nothing remains on a linear track which is why it’s so hard to tell a simple story. You need to put on blinders and remove what’s extraneous to what you really want to say.

Did I mention finding moon snails that fit into the palm of my hand with little room to spare or jelly fish strewn along the beach? But they are not relevant.

      Someone's singing Lord, kumbaya
      Someone's singing Lord, kumbaya
      Someone's singing Lord, kumbaya
      Oh Lord, kumbaya

Someday I’m going to write me a story. It will begin on an ordinary day. All days are ordinary until something happens that changes the trajectory—then it becomes a story.

      Someone's praying Lord, kumbaya
      Someone's praying Lord, kumbaya
      Someone's praying Lord, kumbaya
      Oh Lord, kumbaya

To write a story the writer needs to be open to the possibility of characters taking off on their own or seeing events with different eyes.

So let’s begin— Once upon a time...

Monday, July 23, 2018

Still Hangin’ In

I just read an article about the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys —“NYC’s Only Remaining Siphon-Seltzer Factory”. If you’ve never tasted seltzer— or if you prefer the name sparkling water— from a glass siphon-seltzer bottle you can’t understand why aficionados pine for the real thing.

The Brooklyn Seltzer Boys still deliver bottles—but there’s a four week wait to become a customer. Maybe we’re witnessing a revival. May they remain open and experience this resurgence.

When I grew up in the Bronx the seltzer truck came once a week and the delivery man carried heavy wood cases filled with seltzer bottles into apartment buildings. These were , and still are, heavy glass bottles filled with 26 ounces of pure heaven.

According to the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys, good seltzer has a bite in the back of your throat.

 I don’t recall the bite, but I remember creating egg creams with seltzer, Fox-Bet  chocolate syrup, and milk. No egg in an egg cream soda.

Read more »

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Hidden Within a Metaphor

I recall picking blackberries.
Blueberries happened earlier and I collected them in a pail.
The blackberries led up a mountain and the juice stained my fingers a beautiful shade.

The blueberries went into a batter and became muffins. I ate my muffin certain that my particular berries filled the center. The blackberries became a poem because they turned into a metaphor for a sliver of time that was not attached to a beginning or end.

Later on the woman who walked up the mountain taught me how to eat an avocado and why you don’t eat banana ends. She was Italian and it may be an Italian custom. One avocado is too filling.

A large pit filled watermelon is best. And wide slices.. The juice dripped down my chin and down my shirt, but no one cared. Spitting seeds requires skill. I never learned to spit my seed more than my height.

Blackberries were best because they remained open as a metaphor for sensual delight.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Open Your Eyes

Some days move so fast
you miss the unseen  blessings
that pass before you

Friday, July 20, 2018

A Tired Motel

Set back from a major road 
A motel sign big enough to read 
when traveling the speed limit
A twenty room motel offers cheap daily rates 
I expect it hasn’t changed in forty years—
a double bed, flowered wallpaper, a bottle opener
screwed into a doorframe, some rust stains in the sink,
a tan rug with worn spots near the bed,
window drapes that almost reach in the middle
and a low wattage bulb in one overhead light
I expect that the Gideon Bible is on a bedside table
offering a chance at redemption and the address
of a local Bible believing Church
 A glass carafe, packets of coffee and cream on the dresser
The drawers no longer  open and close
but stays here are usually short, a day or two
At night the sign lights up

Thursday, July 19, 2018


I walk on river rocks
until I find a place to sit—
my hands float in water
Sunspots coat my skin
Water flows through my open fingers
and then joins the current
We will fish here
The confluence of home and away

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

An Open Question

Do you remember
following tree branch shadows
to a hidden pond?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Recite a Blessing

Summer is not a time for long tomes or heavy handed adjective laden prose—nor is it the time for minimalist novels with long sentences that beg for interpretation.

It is the time for stories, for sitting around a table and sharing a story that begins, has an engaging middle, and finds an ending that is earned.

Summer is a time for poetry, for metaphors, for short stories, for tales. Beguiling tales wrapped in fantasy.

Witches and ogres can’t endure the sun. Summer is a time to examine a blade of grass and the sound of silence. It is a time to be open to the tickle of grass.

It is a time to marvel over creation.
It is a time to greet each new day with a blessing.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Not a Political Animal

I’m seated at a table surrounded by a noisy political environment and wonder what it is about these gatherings that sets me off as an anti-social animal

I’ll read what candidates say, listen to them on newscasts, but seated in a large room with the noise level exploding in my ears feels like an assault

I know that there are folks who love this atmosphere, revel in the excitement, the chance to rub elbows with a candidate— not me

I spend my time checking my watch, wondering why it doesn’t begin when it is supposed to start

So why am I here? Because in a moment of abject weakness I agreed to come when a friend asked. “Let’s pack the hall” she said.

Perhaps the chocolate chip cookies are good.

We have a lawn sign— that’s enough.

Perhaps I should open my mouth and talk to someone.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok

In her anonymity, Hick was cremated. Her ashes sat on a shelf of a funeral home for 20 years before being interred in an unmarked grave at a cemetery in Rhinebeck.
  ———Brooke Hauser

3,300 letters discovered in eighteen boxes—Open and read

Eleanor wrote—I ache to hold you close and describes a place of their own—perhaps a cabin in the country. She even speaks of how it would be furnished.

In time Eleanor moves on— beyond their intimacy, but continues to write.

Hick lost herself in a love that stayed fixed in time waiting for historians to decipher the relationship.

Perhaps all that can be said with assurance was that Eleanor was Hick’s great love. I think of the ashes and the unmarked grave as a tragedy— and I find myself  walking away from Eleanor.

“That might have been the end of Hickok's story if not for Patsy Costello, who worked at the Hyde Park drugstore where Hickok used to buy her newspaper. In 1998 she was inspired to find Hickok's grave after seeing a play produced by Kavars called "Lorena Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt: A Love Story."
"I thought it was a shame that she would be buried in an unmarked grave," said Costello, who contacted Kavars.
The marker, which will be dedicated May 1, 2000 will call her an "author, AP reporter, activist, change agent and friend of Eleanor Roosevelt."
   L.A. Times

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Back Then

I remember
when open tweed jackets
crisp white button down shirts
and khaki pants
were the formal wear of dykes
Every one in good standing
owned a pair of timberland boots
and a river driver’s shirt
Levi denim jacket, flannel shirt
button front jeans and 501s
I remember when tee-shirts
proclaimed womyn
We wore our politics
cut our hair short
and wore different clothes
Monday to Friday

Friday, July 13, 2018


I open my mailbox
hoping to find a letter
from someone I don’t know
They used to call them pen pals
It gives me a chance to use my ink pen
Jan from South Dakota sends me photos
of hawks, Sue from Montana tells me about
her eleven children, and Joy from a small village
in Western Australia speaks of quiet and barrenness
Once I owned a postal box in another town
where my letters waited until I gathered
them, read them over coffee in a local
bakery and wrote a return letter
Often crumbs from a cruller
dropped into the crease
of  folded  papers

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Open to Judgement

Watching my favorite teams, rooting for victory— not just a lackadaisical fan, but one who feels
tethered to their successes and thrown into a forlorn state when they flounder.

To be a fan is to endure highs and lows, disappointments and euphoria,
moments that straddle the globe and others that sink beneath the seas

I am not a fanatical fan, but I do talk to the television, suggest when to change pitchers,
and second guess coaches

But I’m also a realist and reluctantly accept that we can’t win every game, take home the trophy every year—

Sometimes I fear that I am a fair weather fan.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Quick Look

     What she wants to do if she can get the time to do it,
      is not so much to live in the past
      as to open it up and get one good look at it.
            —Alice Munro

She took the past out of a wood chest
examined it for clues, turned it inside out,
hung it over a clothesline to freshen up
It still carried a scent in a pocket
and a grass stain she no longer recalled
Then she remembered and folded up the past—

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

An Interpretation

We unroll a person’s scroll of life
and read markings, short hand
notes, parts erased, and others
highlighted, underlined
This is not a linear document
Some areas show a hesitant mark
while others buried beneath
a Chiaroscuro panorama
open up to a myriad of tellings

Monday, July 09, 2018

The Last Letter

Decades ago I moved from a cramped apartment to a bi-level house in Silver Spring, Maryland. We lived  on a street that ended in a dirt lot —so no through traffic. My son was almost three. His sister was born two months after we moved. My first next door neighbor loved cleaning her house and often spent hours defrosting the refrigerator and washing the kitchen floor.

Within several weeks I became friends with Bonnie — originally from Pueblo, Colorado, Miriam from New York City, Jean ( Mother Earth) from Chicago, and Nancy from Georgia. There were others— many from the Deep South.

Early on I learned that neighborhood Bible studies were available for mothers, for couples, for seekers, for dyed in the wool Christians, and even for our local Holy Rollers. The only Holy Roller I came to know was a woman who came from Ohio and spoke in tongues. She willingly gave out booklets on how to access speaking in tongues.

Shortly after my daughter was born the cleaning fanatic next door put her house up for sale and a couple with four boys purchased the house. Tom was in the navy— pretty high up in rank. Tom and Anna met growing up in the Mississippi delta. Being neighborly I brought over a pitcher of ice cold lemonade and chocolate chip cookies— or perhaps they were lemon cookies. Moving in the summer with the heat was a test.

It didn’t take too long for a friendship to begin. Anna had a maple table in her kitchen with two benches and two captain chairs. Every afternoon she would sit down with her guitar and play and sing folk songs and hymns. Because we both had small children, an interest in literature, and a love of folk music, it didn’t take long before we became friends.

On hot afternoons the two little ones often napped in the same house. Anna kept a pitcher of Tang out on a picnic table and I had a pitcher of water outside. The neighborhood was filled with youngsters and over the five years they lived next door her boys, my son, and six other boys became a tight knit group. The Tang and water remained outside during the summer— it cut down on in and out.

Only Jean never cared if the crew trooped into her house. She baked and fed everyone. Her h9me and kitchen remained open and inviting.

Several of the women formed a group to “baby sit” and give mothers a day off. I took a silk screen course at a museum, made my own screen, and turned out 16 “ x 20” posters or landscapes.

Often Anna and I took off the same day and went hiking in the woods or on some of the Appalachian Trail. Jean joined us the Saturday we all climbed Old Rag Mountain.

That first year I was invited to join a morning Bible Study. Everyone in that study came from the south— and most of the women still spoke with a southern drawl. I had been part of book clubs ( formed one on Ainsley Road), but my New York City upbringing hadn’t prepared me for a serious Bible study. Everyone believed the same thing— everyone prayed aloud and someone gave what I later found out was Testimony. That first day  Nancy spoke about what Jesus had done in her life the past week.

I was the fish out of water—although I did own a RSV hard cover Bible. Anna came over that afternoon for tea and a challenge— read the Bible from the first word to the last. So I did— I studied the Word under her tutelage. I also went to several tent type meetings where calls were made to accept Jesus.

Three years after accepting the challenge I was baptized in a D.C. Presbyterian Church along with a young woman from Gallaudet College. Anna gave me a black leather King James Bible. I followed Anna’s penchant for outlining words in black India Ink and writing in the smallest script in the margins.

In five years Tom’s time was up and they moved— but we kept up a letter writing correspondence of two or three letters a week. We both read through all of Melville’s novels and exchanged commentary. Anna was taking an MFA. I had gone back to teach.

We met once or twice a year— often to take a course. Poetry at Hope College. Over the years Anna became more and more conservative and a strict fundamentalist. And I became a more liberal Christian.

Despite this difference— which we agreed was a topic, one of many, we could no longer discuss, we never truly lost contact.

When Tom retired from the Navy they bought a piece of a mountain in North Carolina. In time three of their boys built their homes on that mountain. They each had large families and home schooled their youngsters.

I called her faith fanatical and she prided herself on being a fanatic for Christ. Over time we whittled down the topics that were safe and the time between letters stretched in to months and then yearly.

Two years ago cancer took Tom’s life.

I wrote a long overdue letter at the beginning of June and wrote about Gay Marriage and Abortion — two topics that may at some point come up in the now conservative Supreme Court. Those were two of the topics we agreed to never discuss since we stood at the far end of each pole. In the letter I noted that she might not answer the letter.

Today a letter came, but not with her return address. Inside the envelope— Anna’s funeral bulletin and a five page single spaced letter. Michael, her youngest son, spoke about some of his memories— sparse since he was six when they moved. Anna never had a chance to read the letter. Michael responded to some of my letter— although acknowledging that he didn’t quite know exactly what she might say.

Dear Anna— your belief in every word of the Bible, your anti- abortion and anti- gay marriage stand put us at opposite ends of this debate. You believed fully and deeply— perhaps almost fanatically. But it was you who introduced me to the Bible and to the story that continues beyond the Hebrew Scriptures. Some of what I recall of our friendship — the long talks over tea, collecting pieces of wood, taking a carload of six youngsters to Montreat,North Carolina. And one memory that stands out was going to Harper’s Ferry on Easter Morning and listening to a group singing Amazing Grace.

Despite our differences— and despite that letters were trimmed to once a year, I shall miss you

 Michael wrote that the whole family of your four boys, their wives, and thirty-two grandchildren all sang hymns to you as you moved from this world to the other—

Peace be with you—I know that you are rejoicing.
As you often quoted —God restores the years of the locust.


Sunday, July 08, 2018

To Open Up a Dialogue

Take care with your words
They carry unseen ballast
tilting things awry

Saturday, July 07, 2018

To My Friend

is this the forty-second year
i wish you a happy birthday
still much remains the same
we call and sing happy birthday,
off tune and tinny
we find out what you want
and wrap it in colorful paper
you choose a restaurant
and on this night we indulge in dessert—
these are comfortable rituals
to open and close the day

Friday, July 06, 2018

A gift

After the rain drenched the ground with a furious assault it sputtered and gave way to a blue sky. Perfect for our last lobster at Thurston’s Lobster Pound where the art of cooking a lobster is indeed an art. I love cracking the hard shell and extracting the meat.

It doesn’t matter if juice runs through my fingers or an occasional open cut happens in the pursuit of claw meat. What matters is indulging in the gift of the sea.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

An Open Life

       God weaves your destiny
       from your choices.
               —Rhoda Lerman.  God’s Ear

Each fork in the road
or response to another
creates a story

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

4th of July Parade

Despite the heat we managed to find an open bench in the shade. The usual spit polished fire trucks led off the festivities.

Two floats were worth the wait and heat— a truck festooned in Pride rainbows and a  float with a sign that read President Pinocchio and a paper mache  puppet with an elongated nose.


Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Drawing Cairns on Cadillac Mountain

In the winter i dream of sitting on a mountain and sketching rocks and boulders 
In my mind’s eye i trace each crack and fissure —the way lines meander and darken
Without touch i feel the rough exterior, each indent, and every raised area
Without names i name the green shapes that grow on each rock 
Today i sit on a flat rock and draw cairns
Today i wrestle shapes to sit solidly, to rest their heft on another
Today i give out names, rub my hand across each rock
Today i open myself to the hardness of rock—the softness of shape
Today i listen to the wind that surrounds 

Monday, July 02, 2018

A New Vista

Walk a loop trail in the opposite direction and everything looks strange. Familiar landmarks seen from an altered perspective present a different view. That face in the tree stares across the path and ignores my passing.

We took the left fork instead of the right and everything changed—the incline steeper, the rocks leaning toward the water, and the place we usually stop and sit disappeared.

To walk a different path
and see a new landscape
is an open invitation
to see the world in a new light

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Directions on How to Draw a Wave

the highest point
to spot
the curvature—
a ballerina
her position
before a grand jeté
the open
of spindrift
when it spatters
at the underbelly
of a wave
to understand
its contour
its unique
in pen
and ink