In Memoriam: Magical Shoes by Gayle Madden

Welcome back to Member Monday.  It’s with heavy hearts that we feature a piece by Gayle Madden.  She recently passed away and we offer our sincere condolences to her husband, Michael.  While we mourn Gayle’s passing, we celebrate her life, a life well-lived indeed.  This is the second of two pieces by Gayle we featured this month and we encourage you to read more of her body of work at her blog, aptly titled The Sweet Life: La Dolce Vita. -Writers Forum Board of Directors

Magical Shoes

by Gayle Madden

Walking a mile in my Magical Shoes

I finally know what it’s like to walk a mile in my shoes!

In January of 2011, my husband, Michael, bought me a new pair of pretty RED ones as a surprise.  The surprise turned out to be I wouldn’t wear them until recently, 14 months later.  But what a sweet walk it was!

The shoes are magical.

Just ask Debbie, our adventurous friend who joined us.  She has a pair of magical shoes, too.

Magical Shoes are made to keep a traveler afloat in a storm.  I wore out my last pair!

You might think I need a really big size to weather my current storm, but part of the magic is that one size fits all.  Another part of the magic is that we all have magic shoes.

What color are yours?

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com. Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free. Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links. The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter. Thank you!

Member Monday: Weeds by Dale Angel

Welcome  back to Member Monday.  Today it’s my pleasure to share a piece by Writers Forum member Dale Angel.

Weeds

by Dale Angel

I appreciate weeds for their perseverance and persistence. They travel through all seasons sometimes on their knees.  When there’s no rain they lie close to the earth and don’t whimper for their thirst, defiantly waiting with aggressive personalities that many consider unfriendly.  As soon as rain falls they crawl to the roses and wraps their arms around them shamelessly carrying on a one sided love affair.  The garden has been commandeered before it even knows there’s war!  You won’t either until your foot becomes tangled as you walk along the path.  You wonder, where did they come from?  They crept in quietly while you were watching the sunset.  No matter if you’re kings or peasants they visit all without prejudice. They live with few admirers or support system doing their job wandering across the landscape clothing the naked earth weaving mountains and valleys in their fingers holding our world together like a knitted garment.

I admire their inner strength and quiet underappreciated value…although, I’m a little intimidated by their fearless tenacity to do their job.   Where their footprints are left, the earth has been enriched…

They come with various tendencies and strengths and weaknesses…There’s a place for us all here…I like weeds.

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com. Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free. Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links. The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter. Thank you!

Member Monday: This Amazing Body by Beth Maxey

Welcome back to Member Monday.  It’s a pleasure to feature member Beth Maxey.  She writes about appreciating her amazing body.  Beth is busy healing from a recent foot surgery, so please join me in reading her lovely piece and wishing her a speedy recovery.

This Amazing Body

by Beth Maxey

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my body, and contemplating each part, especially this morning as I lay on the massage table.

Like most women, and many men, too, I suppose, I’m not a huge fan of what’s there. It’s long and lumpy and somewhat squishy. There is dimpled or wrinkly skin where it was once smooth. An assortment of scars and marks decorate limbs, torso, even face.

A couple of toes are bent and a little stiff; my thumb joints are thick and frozen. My gait can be a little stiff, depending on achy hip joints or lower back; my left elbow doesn’t flex all the way out; my shoulders creak and my neck can grind.

But it works.

My legs take me where I need to go, and my balance is pretty good as long as I do regular yoga. My feet need extra cushioning in my shoes these days but they are straight and still nice looking. I can stand up straight and tall: my back is no more curved than it’s ever been, and I consciously ‘telescope’ my spine and pull my shoulders back when I stand. I can bend over to pull weeds or plant seedlings or pick something up off the floor and get back up again without help.

My arms and shoulders let me carry shopping bags or groceries or pots or piles of fresh laundry or kitties or babies, and I can hoist a sling full of firewood into the house if I need to. My hands slice and chop and shred food for our meals, and I can still easily type with all 10 fingers, and knit or sew or thread a needle.. They may be a little lumpy in places, but they don’t hurt.

My eyes see well, actually better now that I’ve had cataract surgery than I saw all of my adult life, and they let me read and watch movies and ocean waves and plays and see my honey’s big brown eyes right before I turn out the light at night. My ears bring me music and the chirrups of the birds that flock to our feeders and the soft mew of our kitties and the footfalls of the deer outside our window at night. They may not pick up every word sometimes, but that’s usually no great loss.

My mouth may have gold and silver and porcelain in abundance, but my teeth can chew anything I want to eat, and my throat easily swallows the big vitamin supplements that we take every morning. My voice still carries to the back of most rooms and my words are clear.

My hair is bright and thick and healthy, silvery gray though it may be. My mind works well enough for me to understand the books and magazines I read, the conversations I have, and even to memorize lines. It may work a bit overtime in remembering trivia from many years ago and replaying scenes from my past, but I can usually corral those wanderings and come back to what is here and now.  I see things from a perspective that generally cuts through to the heart of the situation or to the essence of a person, and I am not afraid to say what I see and think, although I am careful to choose my words.

I know that our physical appearance can make a lasting first impression, especially upon those who are younger. But I am aware also that outward appearance does not necessarily reflect who we are and what we can do, and as I age, I have begun to look more deeply before I venture an opinion about someone.

I have an amazing body. I am so grateful for all that it does, for all it allows me to be and do. And now, more than ever before in my life, I  am consciously, intentionally working  to keep it healthy and strong for as long as I can, and to say ‘thank you’ every day for all that I do have. If yours works, if it does what you need it to do, you should, too.

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com.  Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free.  Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links.  The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter.  Thank you!

Member Monday: An Excerpt from Badges, Bears and Eagles by Steve Callan

Welcome back to Member Monday.  Today it’s a pleasure to feature recent Writers Forum member Steve Callan.  Steve’s book, Badges, Bears and Eagles, releases on March 1, but can be preordered now on Amazon.com.  His book describes what it’s like to be a California Fish and Game warden during the last quarter of the Twentieth Century-working routine details from one end of the state to the other and conducting some of the most successful wildlife-related investigations in California history.  Congratulations, Steve!

An Excerpt from Badges, Bears and Eagles

by Steve Callan

One September morning in 1975, California Fish and Game Warden Dave

Szody and I were working dove hunters down along the Colorado River.

A few miles south of Blythe, I spotted two men sitting in the shade of an old

Cottonwood tree. “Pull over there,” I suggested, pointing to a wide spot on the

opposite side of the road. “Let’s see what those guys are up to.” As Szody turned

his patrol car to the left, two citation books and a stack of mail slid to the right

and across his dash. “When are you gonna stop using your dashboard for a

book shelf?” I said. Without responding, Szody picked up a filthy, tobacco-stained

coffee cup and deposited a wad of freshly chewed spittle.

“How does your wife like that disgusting habit?” I said, as I directed my

binoculars toward our suspected dove hunters.

“She hates it,” answered Szody, laughing. “What do you see?”

“Looks like a couple old timers. They must be finished hunting for the

day; their shotguns are leaning up against the tree.”

“Let’s go see how they did,” said Szody, opening the driver’s side door and

preparing for a 200-yard hike across the field.

“You might want to wipe that stuff off your chin first,” I said.

At a distance, the elderly dove hunters might have mistaken Dave Szody

and me for brothers. We were only a year apart in age and recently out of the

academy. Both of us stood six feet tall or a little more and weighed about 180

pounds. Unlike most game wardens, who preferred the traditional “cop-like”

appearance, my working partner and I went a little longer between haircuts.

As Szody and I approached, one of the hunters stood up from his lawn

chair and greeted us. Tall and slim, this elderly gentleman wore a wide-brimmed

hat, a tucked in long-sleeved shirt and neatly pressed Khaki pants.

What I noticed most was the curious grin on his face that told me he knew

something I didn’t.

I asked to see the man’s hunting license, while my partner contacted his

companion. The name scrawled across the top of the license looked familiar,

but at the moment I was more interested in how many doves these guys had

killed. “Looks like you had some luck,” I said, staring down at a heavily laden

game bag that was hanging from the back of his chair. The man smiled and,

without my asking, handed me the bag. I counted exactly ten doves—the legal

limit. About the time I had pulled the last bird out of his bag, it dawned on

me who this man was.

“You’re George Werden,” I blurted, a look of surprise on my face. “Why

didn’t you say something?”

Werden laughed. “I was just letting you do your job.”

In his eighties, Werden had retired many years earlier as a patrol captain.

He will always be remembered as Warden Werden, one of the pioneers of

California wildlife law enforcement. Szody and I enjoyed a brief conversation

with this Fish and Game icon and were about to leave when Werden called

us back. “Do you boys mind if I give you some advice?” We had only been on

the job about a year, so questions raced through our minds: What did we do

wrong? Did we miss something? Werden seemed to enjoy making us squirm

a little. With great anticipation, we waited for his words of wisdom. The old

gentleman looked us both in the eyes and said, “You boys are just starting out

on the best job in the world. Don’t take yourselves too seriously and above all,

always think of it as a game.”

We never saw George Werden again, but his simple advice remained

with us for the rest of our careers. Anyone lucky enough to become a wildlife

protection officer should think of his occupation not as a job, but as a career-long

adventure. We were getting paid to roam the fields, forests and waters of

California, searching for anyone breaking the law or harming our precious

natural resources.

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com.  Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free.  Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links.  The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter.  Thank you!

Member Monday: Something of Hope by Linda Boyden

Hooray for Member Monday!  It’s my pleasure to share a beautiful piece by the multi-talented Linda Boyden.

Authors Note: In 2001, my husband and I lived on Maui, Hawai’i. We had just begun renovations to the master bathroom when the 9/11 tragedy stopped our country in its tracks. I was far removed from NYC and D.C. but still it was hard to concentrate on anything else. Life returned to normal slowly, but as I watched the men tearing down our large tub, seeing the piles of concrete debris reminded me everyday of what was happening to the Twin Towers. Remarkably, in the rubble in our house, I discovered a hidden treasure and I had to write about it. -Linda Boyden

Something of Hope

Like most Hawaiians, the news came to my house at 5 a.m. on the morning of September 11, 2001. The phone rang and my neighbor’s voice said, “New York City has been attacked. Turn on the TV.”Incredulous, my husband and I watched as the scenes replayed themselves in a Mobius strip of horror: New York City, Washington, D.C., and the crash of Flight 93 in rural Pennsylvania. We spent the next few days numb, as empty as the blue skies over Maui.Perfect and clear as ever, but devoid of jets and helicopters, the skies whispered a bleak message: not only were the tourists stranded, we residents were, too. Isolated from the mayhem, yes, but alone in the wide blue sea.By the end of the first week, leaders and experts told us to return to normal. As if it were a place, I thought, say Normal, Oklahoma. Or Normal, Nevada, or maybe a hamlet in Idaho, but certainly nowhere back East, where we both were born, where many of our relatives and friends still lived, where I was sure nothing would be normal for a long, long time.

With the air ban lifted, my husband and his crew returned to their work on Kaho’olawe Island.

I tried. Since I worked from home as a writer, the first step toward normal was to turn off the television and get back to my writing project. Yet, I couldn’t write. My thoughts refused to be threaded into anything coherent.

Worse, I couldn’t read, my lifeline to sanity since first grade. Amid divorce, financial woes, and the years of being held “captive” by a houseful of teens, a good book had always anchored me, served as a beacon through any trouble, but not that first week.

Sure, I read a sentence here, a paragraph there, but not a whole page. So I resorted to manual labor.

A few days before the attack, we had begun a home improvement project. Our master bathroom had boasted a six foot long, three foot deep, red tile bathtub––a virtual koi pond of a tub, but without jets and heater, and therefore utterly useless.

As soon as it filled with water––tons of water by the way––the temperature was tepid at best and then turned frigid, even on a tropical island! The contractor showed us the reason: beneath its lovely exterior, the tub was solid concrete.

The workers demolished it within an hour, their heavy artillery, jackhammers rat-a-tat-tatting through concrete.

The resulting rubble resembled a miniature of the scenes portrayed on the news. A hill of debris stood in lieu of the tub, my beautiful bathroom, like the City, a far cry from its former self.

I donned work gloves and began to shovel the mess into a wheelbarrow to be loaded into the pickup for an eventual dump run.

As I shoveled, my thoughts drifted to the NYC rescue workers. The dust, even from so little concrete, infiltrated as far away as the living room at the opposite end of our sprawling house. In the work area, it stung eyes, nose and throat. I wheezed and consumed gallons of water.

Beyond those discomforts was the actual physical labor, the slow, back-breaking effort of lifting shovelful after shovelful of heavy material. I had designed my entire life avoiding things like Algebra and manual work, but in that mid September, it actually did me good. Good to use my body. Good to let my mind rest.

Then I discovered it.

In the next shovelful, one red tile, unscathed…four precise corners and four unchinked sides hidden in the wreckage. I held it to the light, swiped it on my shirt: how had it survived jackhammer, sledgehammer and workmen’s boots?

I had no use for it, a single red tile, but I put it aside anyway because…? Because something pretty had survived.

By the end of the day, I miraculously found twelve such tiles, each as unexpected as a violet blooming in the snow.

I told myself then and tell myself now, when difficult years wind down and the approaching New Year waits uncertain: dig through the sorrow, find a piece of joy and rekindle something of hope.

To learn more about Linda Boyden or purchase her books, please visit her website.

Linda showcases her books at the 2011 Author’s Fair.

A Note from the Webmaster: Writers Forum has the author’s permission to publish this work. The author retains full copyright ownership and protection. This work may not be reproduced or used in any way without the permission of the author.  If you’re a member in good standing, please consider submitting a piece of your work to share.  Essays, poems, songs, articles and any other stand alone pieces are welcome.  To submit your piece, please e-mail it to webmaster, Alicia McCauley, at writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com.   Members featured here are guests in our Writers Forum house.  Treat them as such in the comments section and enjoy this beautiful thing we call writing.

Member Monday: Neighborhood Neutrality by Dale Angel

Welcome  back to Member Monday.  Today it’s my pleasure to share another piece by the witty and talented Dale Angel.

Neighborhood Neutrality

by Dale Angel

My neighbors are very congenial.  They live across the driveway. They have lived there several years, I hardly knew they were there, they were so quiet.  In the summer we became acquainted when I bumped into them as they perused the neighborhood. They never do meth or smoke dope or fight.  I’ve never seen the police at their house, they tend to their own business.  After I met them I watched and recognized their contribution to the area we shared.  This is a senior community.  They look ageless and like flowers.  They raised a small family.  I wasn’t invited to the wedding, it was a family affair, but I saw that their children moved nearby.  The new couple set up house keeping and started a family.  I wasn’t concerned although they had moved very close.  In fact, they built in the porch banister.  Every day I passed the ongoing activity I was amused, until today.  There was an army of ants attacking the nest.  The parents were flying about frantically. They’re  puffy black fuzz balls about the size of a nickel.These are Carpenter Bees and they look so obese and overloaded, moving themselves on tiny wings hardly big enough to keep a fly in the air.  Their legs hang down as they fly.They drill and saw perfectly round holes without instruments.  Some consider this destructive.I thought I was neutral, but I found myself running for the Home Defense Container…I hate guns and war implements and poisons!  I took up arms and used lethal weapons and came to the bee’s aid.  I sprayed the banister wiped the entrance to the nest with a cloth dipped in ant killer barely, so the ants felt threatened and retreated as soon as they whiffed my nerve gas, keeping in mind I didn’t want to do bodily harm to my neighbors.  It remains to be seen if it worked.  The collateral damage was extensive to the ants but we are not on friendly terms anyway as they attack my home every summer and I have a vacuum cleaner full of them.  My way of dealing with terrorists.Carpenter Bees weren’t mentioned on the Home Defense label although Deadly long legs were.  It helps to wear glasses when in war, on second perusal, it said ‘’Daddy long legs’’.  The mom and dad live in my tool shed in a particle board shelf and they have me trained to vacuum up saw dust…its such a small price to pay for entertainment, so much for neighborhood neutrality.

A Note from the Webmaster: Writers Forum has the author’s permission to publish this work. The author retains full copyright ownership and protection. This work may not be reproduced or used in any way without the permission of the author.  If  you’re a member in good standing, please consider submitting a piece of your work to share.  Essays, poems, songs, articles and any other stand alone pieces are welcome.  To submit your piece, please e-mail it to webmaster, Alicia McCauley, at writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com.   Members featured here are guests in our Writers Forum house.  Treat them as such in the comments section and enjoy this beautiful thing we call writing.

Member Monday: The Thing About Dragonflies by Alicia McCauley

Welcome  back to Member Monday.  Today it’s my pleasure to share a piece of my own.

Author’s Note:  Every spring I raise dragonflies in my classroom.  It’s a magnificent process to observe as these water creatures take flight and become acrobats of the air.  Just this last week, the dragonfly nymphs arrived in my classroom and so it feels appropriate to start off dragonfly season by sharing this piece with you.  One particular year, raising dragonflies came at a difficult time in my life and the growth of the dragonflies mirrored my own struggles.  As dragonflies begin to take flight this spring maybe, just maybe, you’ll find a little bit of yourself in them as well.

The Thing About Dragonflies
By Alicia McCauley

My favorite insect is the dragonfly.  Yes, they’re beautiful, but that’s not why I love them.  Adult dragonflies hunt by holding their legs together like a basket and scooping insects right out of the sky, but that’s not why I love them either.  Sure they’re the only insect that can fly backwards and while that’s amazing, that’s not why they have garnered my affection.

The thing about dragonflies is that they start out as nymphs.  Ugly, brown nymphs with grumpy faces.  They scoot around in the water and muck, shooting out their masks, catching unfortunate prey.  They spend months, sometimes years, in this stage.  Wallowing in the mire.  Camouflaging, even covering themselves in filth.  To the inattentive eye, it just looks like they’re hanging around being ugly, but what’s really happening is change.  You see, the nymph is busy growing and molting.  It grows and molts, grows and molts, leaving ghost skeletons lingering in the water.

Nymphs mostly molt in the dark of night, so that sometimes the changes go completely unnoticed until one day the nymph crawls out of the water and up a cattail.  It clings to the cattail with hooks on its legs and then a most splendid thing happens.  One last time, the exuvia cracks open and an adult dragonfly flops out of its old self.  It hangs upside down, seeing the world in a whole new way.

The new dragonfly waits.  Waits to fly.  Waits to see the world.  Waits to wheel in the wind.  When blood pulses into the wings, the dragonfly takes off.  At first the flights are clumsy.  The dragonfly bumbles around as if it’s getting acquainted with itself for the first time.  After a few test flights the dragonfly is zipping around, hovering and even jutting in reverse.  The scowl of the nymph is replaced with eager eyes and a jeweled body that shimmers even in the faintest of light.  It’s hard to imagine that the dragonfly feels anything short of joy as it skims the water, reveling in the knowledge that, at long last, it has become what it is meant to be.

At night when sad thoughts creep in and steal the remnants of sleep, I think about the dragonfly.  When I’m covered in sorrow and I can’t escape the muck, I take heart in the fact that growth is happening.  Change is taking place, even in times when I can’t see it.  I have to believe that heartache will someday become an ill-fitting skin that will eventually crack open and give way.  Give way to beauty.  Give way to love.

I think of the nymph and the day it makes the final climb up the cattail.  That must be one scary climb.  In fact the nymph will often fall back into the mud several times while trying to make that climb.  When I feel like all I’m doing is falling, I remember the perseverance of the nymph.I swing my legs over the bed each morning.  I smile at my loved ones.  I breathe in and out.  I tell myself to keep trying.  I know one day strength will break through sorrow, leaving the mire to exist only in my memory.  I wait with anticipation for the day that I’ll soar with wings pulsing with life.

I love dragonflies for their patience.  I love dragonflies for their determination, for their strength.  I love dragonflies because they are tangible proof that ugliness and pain cannot contain the pursuit of joy.

During lonely nights, dragonflies sweep into my mind with their basket legs and scoop away brokenness, leaving room for hope.

And that is the thing I love the most about dragonflies.

That year, while trying out its wings, a new dragonfly found a peculiar place to land, surprising me and the roomful of first graders!

A Note from the Webmaster: Writers Forum has the author’s permission to publish this work. The author retains full copyright ownership and protection. This work may not be reproduced or used in any way without the permission of the author.  If you’re a member in good standing, please consider submitting a piece of your work to share.  Essays, poems, songs, articles and any other stand alone pieces are welcome.  To submit your piece, please e-mail it to webmaster, Alicia McCauley, at writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com.   Members featured here are guests in our Writers Forum house.  Treat them as such in the comments section and enjoy this beautiful thing we call writing.