When I published this work in May of 2020, I never expected COVID-19 to morph into SARS-CoV-2, an ongoing threat requiring so much adaptation in our lives, along with unprecedented global grief. My hope is that soon I will be able to write another book of short prose entitled Brief Writings During A Post-Pandemic Life.
Please get vaccinated, wear masks, follow our CDC guidelines and use common sense. All this so you and others will remain healthy and be able to continue to live fully.
“How many years have they been living here?” he wondered as he sliced down firmly. His Boy Scout carving knife, the one with the whalebone handle, felt heavy in his firm grip. It was reassuring to hold this every October; a testament to the cycles of family life lived in the farmhouse built so long ago. Their children had grown and gone off to the city to work and live differently than their parents, as expected. That too, was comforting in its own way, he thought. He knew he was a good father because each child had left home hopeful and resilient with his dream intact. Now, they gather on holidays only. Most were spent in their cities, or at some impersonal shore rental. Once in a while when they needed a sliver of reassurance – a touchstone reminding them of who they were and still are – they came home. Then, the cacophony of voices filled the rooms during the days. His wife’s endless cooking with pots and pans from their childhoods, now dented and scarred, banging about the stove top became the music for every mealtime. Evenings, outside if the weather permitted, were spent drinking one last beer, sharing bits and pieces of accomplishments, memories, and cradling grandchildren who were sleepy with full bellies. All this was the order in their lives when reunited. Alone, bent over the picnic table made by hand more than five decades ago, he carved this year’s pumpkin. The long drive through farmlands from one patch to another had become an autumn ritual. His wife accompanied him, knowing but silent as couples who have been long married. He was particular about its shape and size and this one – well, her nod assured him, yes, this one was a beauty! Fat and round with a burnt-orange sheen, it had been waiting for someone to see its resplendence – waiting for him. Every year, regardless of the weather or the slow decline of young trick-or-treaters, he fashioned his pumpkin.
Tomorrow night, while the crickets chirped low and the sun was long gone to the other side of their world, this pumpkin would be aglow on the front stoop. Its carefully carved face of surprise, eyes wide open and a mouth shaped like the letter O, would greet them, mimicking his own wonder. His family – here at home – for his favorite holiday!
“Every October’s End” will be published on 10/24/21 at 5pm Eastern Time (ET) By SPillwords Press.
Over that past year and a half, I have been cataloging a small library for a non-profit arts organization. A treat has been to come across books, such as this – a catalog to “accompany an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston” held in 2002 introduced me to Blanche Lazzell (1878-1956) – a brief biography and her work.
She hales from West Virginia by birth but spent time studying seriously under William Merritt Chase in New York at the Art League along with Georgia O’Keefe. Later, she went to Paris and it is here that she formed a close cadre of fellow artists who explored Modernism. Returning home right before WWI she started her own art school but a year later moved to Provincetown, MA with her Parisian former colleagues where she experimented. In the late 1920s in Provincetown after having again visited Europe and explored Cubism, she truly blossomed. She is credited with innovating the Japanese woodcut technique to the western art with the “white- line woodcut.”
In fewer than twenty-three pages, this catalog details her dense biography living in such remarkably historic times. Additionally, the inclusion of the artists who influenced her and their art along with full-color plates per page of Lazzell’s work make one marvel at this diminutive woman. She accomplished so much during a time when women gained so little recognition.
Shapiro, Barbara Stern. From Paris to Provincetown: Blanche Lazzell and the Color Woodcut. BosTOn: MFA Publications, Museum of Fine ARts, 2002. Print.
As a work of fiction, this picture book offers a tender story about a young penguin, Peanut, who possesses a special talent that is eventually cherished by his colony. The dynamic between Peanut and his mother are pivotal in that they present understanding and empathy between parent and child. The illustrations created in acrylic medium are “primitive” in the best sense, and use the most recognizable colors and species’ structure for a child’s view of penguins.
Touted by the publisher for ages 3-8, it will have a special appeal to younger children and enhance understanding as the art reinforces the text rather than expanding it. Using many of the traditional picture book design components, akin to the “Little Golden Books” series, the text often stands alone but at times is integrated with Lepore’s pictures that fill a page. While references implied or direct regarding facts about penguins are omitted, it is the whimsical story line that is front and center for Aruna Lepore, a new author.
PDF of this softcover book was reviewed by Tina Hudak & Cielo Contreras
Lepore, Aruna M. Peanut the Penguin. Maryland: Bold Story Press, 2021.
Our garden is surrounded by Black Walnut trees. Not much grows underneath, even among the shade plants, as everything about this tree is acidic. Yet over the decades I have come to love them. There is one that is absolutely majestic and dominates the garden canopy. Our compromise, the tree and me, is to plant hostas – all varieties for all the moods of spring and summer. They too have become well loved friends.
This bit of writing is a tribute to this unusual space that gives ways to the many personalities among the greenery.
Early evening in the garden. I dash for cover under the red pine.
A quick, hard summer shower drenches the carpet of wild grasses stretching ahead to the tall evergreens.
Surrounding a stone pathway, verdant hostas trumpet their variegated coats of colors in lime and mint and muted yellows.
Standing sentinels. Raindrops hang heavy on their broad leaves. Curving lips bend towards the soft ground to give a gentle kiss goodnight.
Boundaries merge with the dying of the day. All is fading.
Do you see how I, too, am only a shadow of who I once was?
This summer has been spent waiting for THE grandchild. The role of grandma, nonni, or babka, has never been one I expected to fill. So, it is only fitting that I find integrating this new title with all its cultural ramifications into my life begins with the psyche. Coming on the heels (almost) of retirement, so much of my former identity has been displaced. I am displaced. Hence, the last time my dreams were this vivid and detailed was in my forties – another major transitional time.
While now, there is art to return to on a daily basis, it is a former vocation that needs so much nurturing in order to regain its central place in my life. And, frankly, I do not know if I have the stamina or the time any longer to accomplish this. Therefore, I pay tribute to all of this, hodge-podge as it is, with my recent artist’s book and the words.
Summer DreamsDreams are dense & convoluted
These days in this, my season of despondency.
Ensconced in a realm of vaguely familiar rooms
One after the other
Traversed with equally obscure purpose.