Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It was a first

Writing Prompt: The first time I . . .

For the first time in my life, I have looked at a puppy and said, "No, I won't take it home with me."

Here is a picture of the puppy, a papillon I visited in a pet store in Narragansett, Rhode Island. She is a 14-week-old female.

She is adorable and probably good-natured, but I've fallen in love on this vacation with another dog, Roo, who belongs to my friend Jessie. He too is a papillon--and the cutest, smartest, most mythological-looking and fascinating little dog I have ever seen.

Roo fetches tennis balls from the pond, snuggles in my lap, has the cutest trot and little ears that stand up straight--hence the name, papillon. I want him or a dog very much like him. In French papillon means butterfly; the erect ears look like butterfly wings.

Butterflies are highly symbolic for me.

Until this trip, I had sworn off more dogs--I've had enough. But now. hmmm. Roo is pure joy. Who wouldn't want that?

Meet Roo:

My husband Bill said, "I've never seen my wife-- who claims she's just 'going to take a look at a dog'-- not come home with it. And we'd have to fly this one home with us."

He sighed, resigned, knowing he would eventually love any pet that came into the house. He looked at the puppy then waited outside the pet store, wondering what I would do.

But this female I saw yesterday simply did not grab me. Her ears don't stand up, for one thing. We didn't connect. I walked outside.

"Surprise," I said. "I don't have a puppy with me."

Don't think, however, that I haven't contacted a papillon breeder in North Carolina. I have.

But it was a first for me, the first time I ever said no to a dog.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The last of summer

The last book?
The last meal?
The last ocean swim?

Write about the last _________ of summer.

We aren't there yet, but autumn is advancing
--in the breeze and the smells and the light.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Write about Something That has Closed

I walked by this store today, The Original Ornament, and saw the sign. I thought of the many times over the last fifteen or so years I have stopped in for a tiny repair job--a new necklace clasp, a back for an earring, a new strand for beads.

Most of what I bought cost about $1.35 and one of the clerks--usually a tattooed alternative type--did the job for me. I'm not dexterous and can't fix little pieces of wire. Everybody in there was always patient and helpful.

I thought about the time I hired folks from the store for one of my daughter's birthday parties. Each girl got a handful of little silvery and black beads and a coil of wire. They made snaky bracelets.

The store provided work stations and wire cutters and lots and lots of beads.

Here goes another small independent shop with excellent service, I thought.

So many stores have come and gone from this quaint "mall," the first floor of a converted cotton mill--with wooden floors, vast ceilings, and brick walls. The Original Ornament has been a mainstay.

I walked up and down the interior hall, reading shop signs: "20 - 70% off" "40% off." Many of the shops had no customers.

For some reason, I decided to head back by The Original Ornament and take a few photos. I guess I was feeling a bit sentimental.

"Why? The man!" A woman walked by and stopped to read aloud the magic-markered words on the leasing sign, explaining why the place was closing.

"Casey didn't close because of the man" the woman said to me. "She made bad business decisions--doubling the space. She was doing just fine in the smaller space. She owes all her creditors, big time."

I shrugged. Why was this woman railing at me about it? I have no idea who Stacy is. The owner, I guessed.

"Listen hon," she said, "it's all about business decisions--and when you make bad ones, well. I love Stacy. Really, I do. She just owes everybody."

The woman shook her head. "It's all about bad business decisions."

I wanted to say to her: bad business decisions? What about the American auto industry? What about the Walmartization of America? Every one of these stores in this mall is hurting--and probably on the way out. Bad business decisions up and down the aisle? Is that what's happening to all these small shops that offer boutique brands and good service?

I don't think so.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Perseverance: A List

1. The writer Alice Adams had a bad relationship with her mother, a failed writer. (The act of writing becomes fraught with family baggage.)

2. Alice decided that if she wrote maybe her mother would like her. (Risky idea. The mother would, more likely, be jealous.)

3. In college a creative writing teacher told her to quit writing and get married. (Authority figure speaks. Hard to counter that voice and not internalize it.)

4. She got married, had a child, and the marriage failed. A single mom, she worked as a secretary. (Time to write? When?)

5. Her psychiatrist told her to quit writing and remarry. (Yikes.)

6. She did not take his advice.

Make a list of forces working against you as a writer. Now set the list aside and get back to the writing.

Friday, August 07, 2009

"Tall Woman"

My god daughter Olivia Qin Buffett adores this statue in the lobby of Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. Olivia, soon to be 21 months, stops to greet "tall woman," as she calls her, on her way in and out to visit her mother, Baolian, who has been on hospital bed rest for some time--since her membranes ruptured at 26 weeks pregnant.

Olivia is fixated by "tall woman."

Back at home, she climbed the far-side of-the-banister stairs, the staircase is blocked off by a gate, and when she got as high as she could go, announced, her free hand making a sweeping gesture high above us, "tall woman!"


I'm thrilled that my god daughter loves art. I do too. When I was a little girl--two years older than Olivia-- I ran ahead of my family, up all the steps of the Lincoln Monument, and ran down again, ashen, shouting, "It's a statue. It's a statue."

I had hoped to meet Mr. Lincoln in the flesh at the top of all those steps, to jump into his lap. Alas his lap was stone, but I was awed by his grandeur and have adored sculpture ever since--abstract, figurative, massive, tiny.

Olivia is also obsessed with Frida Kahlo. Baolian has a book of photos of Frida, not including her art, which is probably a good thing, since some of those images might be a bit scary for a toddler. They disturb adults, after all.

Prompt: Write about an early memory of encountering art and/or write about a very young person you admire.

(And stay tuned for more about Olivia. I can be shameless in my pride--she's not a blood relative or even somebody I get to see often and therefore wield any influence over. I can take no credit for her genius but I can and will share the wonder of her.)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Shadowy Self

Here's a prose poem that I think makes a great prompt. Write about your vices.


And these are my vices:
impatience, bad temper, wine,
the more than occasional cigarette,
an almost unquenchable thirst to be kissed,
a hunger that isn't hunger
but something like fear, a staunching of dread
and a taste for bitter gossip
of those who've wronged me—for bitterness—
and flirting with strangers and saying sweetheart
to children whose names I don't even know
and driving too fast and not being Buddhist
enough to let insects live in my house
or those cute little toylike mice
whose soft grey bodies in sticky traps
I carry, lifeless, out to the trash
and that I sometimes prefer the company of a book
to a human being, and humming
and living inside my head
and how as a girl I trailed a slow-hipped aunt
at twilight across the lawn
and learned to catch fireflies in my hands,
to smear their sticky, still-pulsing flickering
onto my fingers and earlobes like jewels.

by Cecilia Woloch
BOA Editions, Ltd., 2009

Monday, August 03, 2009

Veggies Galore

I just spent the weekend in East Lansing, Michigan. So many parks, everything green and lush. It is home to Michigan State University the first land grant university in the country. My friend Susie and I drove to down scenic country roads to pick up the organic veggies for our host family. We passed corn fields, stands of evergreens and hardwoods, and vineyards--all are parts of the agricultural schools. We saw avian research centers and veterinary. In a barn we found our bags of fresh veggies and watched two young women in a lab. I asked a big friendly guy, who gave us some cukes from a mound, what they were doing. "They're analyzing garden weeds," he told us.

The next morning we hung out at a farmer's market. Such a super place to visit--in the summer!