Friday, August 22, 2014

A Fun Approach to History

Thought for the day:  It is well that war is so terrible, or we would grow too fond of it. [Robert E. Lee]

Because this year marks the 150th anniversary of  Atlanta's invasion and occupation by Union troops during the Civil War, as well as Sherman's subsequent incendiary march through Georgia, this has been a summer of numerous living history-type re-enactments, one of which Smarticus and I visited last month.

The encampment of Union soldiers on the lawn of Barrington Hall  in Roswell provided a fascinating glimpse into the past, and taught us something about the local happenings of those days, too. A re-enactment showed the notorious capture of some 400-500 cotton mill workers... mostly women and children... who were arrested, charged with treason, and deported to prison. On Sherman's orders, the mill was burnt to the ground.

This tent was furnished more elegantly than the others. See the dresses hanging in the rear? It seems this was the abode of one of the (ahem) camp followers. Oh, and in spite of what you may have heard, the term hooker wasn't derived from General Joe Hooker's well-known appreciation of... camp followers. The term actually preceded the Civil War. 

Here we have a display of a typical Union soldier's possessions.

A  makeshift table.

Healthcare left a lot to be desired 150 years ago.

More stomach-turning medical implements. Those jars on the bottom were for holding leeches, but that doesn't bother me nearly as much as those surgical tools on top.

A large building held many Civil War era items, including numerous photographs of the day. Although the required time of subject immobility had decreased dramatically since the days of the daguerreotype, it was still quite long by today's instant standards. This young lady apparently possessed a wealth of patience and poise.

This little girl, on the other hand, doesn't look at all pleased with the process.

Post-mortem photographs were quite common during the mid-1800s, especially following the death of a young child.

Most fashion-conscious ladies of the day had at least one set of hair combs, but fans weren't just a fashion statement. In the South, they helped ladies tolerate the brutal summer heat, and in the hands of some women, they also became effective instruments of flirtation.

Corsets created an hourglass figure. Women may not have been able to take a deep breath, but they looked terrific while they were swooning from lack of oxygen.

And one final picture... just because I like it. It reminds me of what a schoolmarm might wear to church.

And that's it. Whatever you may think about the sanity of modern-day fellas donning old scratchy woolen uniforms on a hot Georgia day, I'm glad those folks did it. Nothing reinforces the understanding of history quite as well as ... living it... or more accurately, re-enacting it.

In closing, I found an interesting poem online, which was allegedly written by a sentimental young lady from north Georgia to her Confederate soldier admirers:

                                                      'Tis hard for youens to sleep in camp;
                                                      'Tis hard for youens to fight;
                                                      'Tis hard for youens through snow to tramp,
                                                      In snow to sleep at night.
                                                      But harder for weans from youens to part,
                                                      Since youens have stolen weans hearts.

Hmmm... admirers? Reckon she was a... camp follower?

There are places that need no historical marker because they are haunted, haunted by the spirits of men in blue and gray, now a part of the soil they fought over. If you stand quietly and listen, you can sense the clash of arms and see the skirmish, as if the gnarled old trees can't forget and whisper their story to your imagination...  [Barry Etris]

NOTE: The picture in the header shows the front of Barrington Hall, which was built in 1842 in the Greek Revival style. At various times during the day, musicians played Civil War-era music on that porch, and at other times, dancers did their thing.

                                       Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, August 15, 2014

In Praise of Creativity

Thought for the day: Appreciation is the highest form of prayer, for it acknowledges the presence of good wherever you shine the light of your thankful thoughts.  [Alan Cohen]

YAY! I won, I won! It's awesome to be appreciated, isn't it...?

Okay, so technically I didn't win anything. Technically, the talented Chris Fries passed a bloghop kinda virtual tour thingie to me. (Thanks, Chris!) Knowing how talented he is, and how talented the other participants are, I feel pretty doggone honored they even let me into their show. I feel a little like a flea-bitten mutt who's been entered into an AKC dog show. The truth is, I'd do lousy at a dog show competition. With these hips and knees of mine, I don't even roll over very well. But on the plus side, at least I'm housebroken.

(By the way, that dog show picture came from morguefile. Anybody know what in the world a best of opposite sex award means? Does that mean that cute little beagle is a... floozy?)

Anyhow, back to the tour. Its official name is Creative Artist Virtual Tour. Initially, participants were mostly authors of children's books, but over the past couple years, it has grown to include all kinds of creative people. For example, Chris is not only a talented writer, but he's also a kick-ass musician. And now... me. (Tsk-tsk. It's a shame the tour has fallen on such hard times.)

Even so, I'm more than happy to join this illustrious parade. (Especially if I can ride in a red convertible.)

Creativity is a drug I cannot live without. [Cecil B. DeMille]

Okay, here we go... the questions, and my responses:

1. What am I currently working on?

Let's see; there's a load of laundry doing its thing in the washer, and another's flopping around in the dryer. I'm desperately trying to write this post, but our resident felines are determined to thwart my efforts; evidently, they harbor a different opinion as to how I should be spending my time today.

But that's not what you want to know, is it? You want something creative. Well, how about another  (ta DA!) book? A really terrific book, as a matter of fact, and I don't mind saying it's terrific, because it isn't all about me... it's been a collaborative effort. Eight women from the U.S. and Canada, a brilliant Italian photographer, and a former male model turned terrific cover designer have joined forces to create a delightful book of poetry. A really fun book of poetry. Sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes lump-in-your-throat emotional, and sometimes evocative of a simple smile of recognition, but all good to the last syllable. And every cent from its sales will be going to CARE International. Can you tell? I'm pretty psyched about it. And it should be ready for release in a matter of weeks. Ready to hear its title? Ya sure? Okay, it's Old Broads Waxing Poetic. Classy, huh?

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I guess we all want to think of ourselves as unique. Different. Special. Heck, I don't even know what my genre is, so it'd be kinda hard to compare it to other similar works.  My first novel is probably best classified as women's lit, I guess, but men are reading it, too. Some of 'em are even enjoying it, so go figure. My next book might be considered women's lit, too, but I'm not sure. There are some rooting-tooting explosions in it, so maybe it's an action book? Then again, the main character is a young girl, so maybe it's YA. Ooh, but it deals with adult topics. Oh, fuhgeddabout it. I dunno how it's going to be classified, to tell the truth. Guess I'd better finish writing it first, and worry about genre later.

One way my work may be different is I don't take it or myself too seriously. I know. Blasphemy. Why bother to write at all if I don't have secret dreams of winning a Pulitzer prize? Any creative endeavor I pursue, including writing, is for sheer enjoyment, and on my own schedule. Don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade has been published and is doing fairly well. I'd like to see Blast Rites get published, too, but when Smarticus asks me to go somewhere with him... I drop everything and go, because that's where my priorities lie. I started writing seriously (or about as serious as I get) late in the game, so I have no illusions of having a long and prolific career.  I'm no spring chicken, but that's okay. I'm happy with whatever I do. No naked ambition here. Just sheer delight to be doing what I'm doing. (Whatever that is...)

Creativity is contagious; pass it on. [Albert Einstein]

3. Why do I write/create what I do?

Life's too short not to create something besides carbon dioxide. Whether it's writing, singing, playing the guitar, painting, crocheting, building something with a soldering iron and schematic, or whatever, it's a way to make the most of the moment. It's self-expression; it's ME; and essentially, it's the difference between living and merely existing. And it sure beats the heck out of cleaning the toilet. As for why I create the things I choose to create... why not?

Think left and think right
And think low and think high.
Oh, the thinks you can think
If only you try.  {Dr. Seuss]

4. How does your writing/creating process work?

Not very well, I'm afraid. I'm not disciplined enough to generate an impressive output, because I get easily distracted, and like Alice, I happily plunge into every rabbit hole that spurs my curiosity. For me, a successful day isn't measured by how many pages I write or how much progress I make on any of my other projects, but by how enjoyable it is, no matter how it's spent. But when I do write, I prefer to do the first draft  (with much much scratching out and corrections along the way) with pen and paper. Then, one chapter at a time gets typed into the computer and corrected as I go. Many many rounds of tedious editing follow in pursuit of the illusive ideal of... perfection.

Have no fear of perfection; you'll never reach it.  [Salvadore Dali]

You can't wait for inspiration; you have to go after it with a club.  [Jack London]

From the moment I picked up your book up until the I laid it down, I convulsed with laughter. Someday, I intend on reading it. [Groucho Marx]

Now, Groucho, that wasn't very nice...

Okay, now that I've dutifully answered those questions, I'm supposed to pass this honor on to someone else. I haven't seen any requirements as to how many, but some participants have selected as many as three, while others have chosen one. Or none. I could wimp out and simply throw it out there for grabs like a bouquet at a wedding reception, but I've decided to pick one very wonderful person.

This wonderful person is Tracy Jo. No matter what challenges life may hand her, she always manages to create inspirational blog posts, made even more special by her excellent photography and writing skills. Even if she chooses to pass on joining this virtual parade of talent, I do hope you'll stop by her blog and say hello.

                                         Tracy? Your mission, should you choose to accept it...

isn't the slightest bit impossible. Just answer those four simple questions up there in a post on your blog, and then invite one or more others to join the tour. But, um, better decide quickly. You know, before this post self-destructs...

                                 Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

P.S. To celebrate the imminent release of Old Broads Waxing Poetic, the e-version of Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade will be available on Amazon for the next week for the paltry chump change price of ninety-nine cents.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Back Home Again

Thought for the day:  I think what you notice most when you haven't been home in a while is how much the trees have grown around your memories.  [Mitch Albom]

This is an old picture of my mom (far right) and some of her siblings. It tears at my heart a little to look at this picture, because they're all long gone now.

... I wasn't homesick for anything I would find at home when I returned. The longing was for what I wouldn't find. The past and all the people and places there were lost to me.  [Alice Steinbach]

Smarticus and I just returned home from Baltimore. Even though we've called Georgia home since 1971, the ghosts of our childhoods still reside in Baltimore. Never are we more aware of them than when we re-visit some of our old haunts, like we did last weekend. Places that used to teem with crowds of people are now mostly vacant. Sealed off.

Like this place. Loch Raven. Once upon a time, every roadway here was lined with cars. Lots of young people waxing their cars, and striking poses. (You know, in case anyone was looking...) Lots of cruising and schmoozing. Lots of laughter.

There used to be picnic areas, and places to hike, too. And we loved to walk out across the top of the dam to watch the water spilling over it, and marvel at the gargantuan carp swimming down below. Now? No can do. Everything is fenced off. Eerie. There were no signs of other visitors around, unless you count all the Canadian geese. Methinks people-type visitors aren't welcome there anymore.

We experienced the same thing at Rocks State Park, which used to be one of our favorite places to visit. Smarticus and I went there right before he went into the Army in 1969.

We took quite a few pictures that day, but this is my favorite. I'd hoped to recreate it.

No such luck. We couldn't get to that area anymore. You guessed it. Blocked off.

So I took THIS picture, and I like it just as well. (Hmmm, might have something to do with being kinda partial to the subject matter...)

Even though the places we visited had changed so dramatically, our trip to Baltimore wasn't about the places. Not at all.

Home is a people. Not a place. If you go there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there anymore.  [Robin Hobb] was about  people. Some very special people... my cousins, many of whom were also very dear childhood friends. And last weekend, a bunch of us got together in Baltimore for a reunion. That's the really cool thing I was doing. We came together to celebrate... us.  (While some of us are still left.) Believe it or not, I met one cousin for the first time. We found out a couple years ago that Kathy had been given up for adoption by one of my aunts, and though we've communicated via email and telephone, this was our first face-to-face. She and her husband came all the way from California to meet us. My brother came in from Texas, and he hadn't seen some of our cousins since before he went into the Marines in 1959. So as you can imagine, it was an incredible gathering. I'll only share a few pics with you...

Remember this shot of my cousin Phyllis and me? I just shared it on a post last month.

Well, we tried to recreate it last weekend... without the tent, of course. Or the svelte young bodies. But every time I attempted to strike an approximation of the original the-wind-is-blowing pose, she'd say something to make me laugh.

So we settled for this one. Close enough.

Here's some of the crew. That's my brother Ron on the far left, and my "baby" cousin Curt with his arm around Diane and me. Patty, next to my brother, is the "classy" one among us, although she'd probably argue with me about that. Kathy is next to me, and we found we have so much in common, it's as though we were separated at birth. (As she pointed out, in a way... we were.) That's Curt's son Jacob behind us. He'd valiantly been trying to horn into the many pictures taken of this group, and he finally succeeded. (Might I add that the camera added at LEAST twenty pounds to each of us... except for Jacob, of course. Clearly, it's a blatant case of ageism.)

I won't bore you with more pictures of people you don't know. A lot of our cousins weren't able to join us, but for those of us who were there, it was a magical day. For that one day, the extra pounds, wrinkles, and gray hairs magically melted away. For just that one day, we celebrated family and our lifelong friendships, and ya know what? It doesn't get much cooler than that. Dare I say it? We all felt young again.

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. [Mark Twain]

... I wasn't homesick for anything I would find at home when I returned. The longing was for what I wouldn't find. The past and all the people and places there were lost to me.  [Alice Steinbach]

Sometimes, Alice, if we're very lucky, those lost people can be found again. For one glorious day, we found each other, and the memories we share exploded into full-screen technicolor happiness.

                                Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.