Blackberries and Love

I grew up in a farming community in Oregon. There were picturesque pastures with cows and sheep, houses nestled in evergreen forests and oak groves, and the occasional tractor meandering down the road. We even had a little red barn on our property.

When it wasn’t raining, we’d bundle up and go for a walk around the loop. That’s what we called our neighborhood—a three-mile circle with a house every few acres or so. We knew most of our neighbors by name in our sparsely populated community, and everyone walked the loop, young and old. It took an hour and it was a great opportunity to chat, drop in on a neighbor if so inclined, and take in the scenery.

Oregon Blackberries
Oregon Blackberries

September was the best month to walk the loop because it was blackberry season, and the berries grew wild on the side of the road. We’d grab an empty coffee tin and pick them as we passed by the brambles. By the time we looped back again our tins would be filled to the brim, and our moms would make pie or jam. Sometimes we’d drop them on top of ice cream at night or cereal in the morning. Plump, fat blackberries, impossibly sweet, but with that tart kick at the end.

When the brambles had been picked clean by those on foot, we’d ride horses so we could reach the top branches. If the blackberries were still out of reach, we’d stand on the horses’ backs.

Someone would always reach deep within the sharp brambles for the plumpest prizes, pulling out a bloodied arm along with the blackberries. Nobody really minded the “battle scars,” it was just an Oregon rite of passage. “Ah, I see you’ve been picking blackberries!” was a common phrase. The scratches gave it away. That, and our purple-stained lips. Part of the fun of picking blackberries was sampling them fresh off the branches. On a hot day the blackberries were warm and extra sweet.

I moved to California when I was nineteen, many years ago. I don’t get back to Oregon often, especially in September, so blackberries are very nostalgic for me. A few precious times over the years I got to pick those blackberries with my own young children. Now my kids are grown.

Recently it was my birthday and my husband surprised me with a trip to Oregon, via an overnight train. We watched the magnificent solar eclipse on that train, and ended up at a sprawling Bed and Breakfast farmhouse in Carlton.

At first, it was just my husband and me. Soon cars pulled up, and out popped my four kids, with one brand new spouse and one boyfriend! Another car pulled up with my dear childhood friend Ann, and her husband.

Picking blackberries the fun way!

Ann had walked the loop many times with me when we were kids. She remembered how much I loved blackberries. It was late August, so the first batch of blackberries were already ripe. It turns out, my kids had picked blackberries, with the girls on the boys’ shoulders so they could reach the good ones on top. They had taken their berries to Ann’s house and they had all made a blackberry cobbler! That night, for my birthday “cake” they presented me with that blackberry cobbler, warm with candles and nostalgia and love. It brought tears to my eyes. They even showed me a sequence of pictures; of them picking the blackberries, then the blackberries in a heaping bowl, then in Ann’s kitchen with flour and sugar and recipes and smiles.

I blew out the candles and took a bite. It tasted like pure joy. It tasted like childhood. I looked around at all the sweet smiling faces, with blackberry stained lips and giggles, and I could see that everyone knew how I felt, because they felt it too. A step back into simpler times, where neighbors were friends and berries grew wild. It wasn’t just a blackberry cobbler. It was magic, and I’ll never forget it.

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An Atom’s Tale

A hydrogen atom finds its happy place
We are all made of stars…

I am a hydrogen atom. You know, one proton and all that.

How did I come to be? Well, there was this big bang, and before you know it, poof! There I was!

I am immortal, but I have no voice. I am officially a teenager today, it is my thirteenth birthday. Thirteen billionth that is, so as a gift, the Universe granted me storytelling privileges, just this once.

The cool thing about the vacuum of space is, the speed I was shot out, that’s the speed I kept. There is a lot of blackness out there, but so much beauty. Hydrogen atoms are kind of obsessed with each other, and as soon as I came in contact with another hydrogen atom, we were glued at the hip, so to speak. We traveled together for millennia, twirling and dancing, sometimes streaking along the edge of gravitational planets, bouncing off at the last minute, and continuing on our way.

We came upon a planet with a blue haze, and were instantly grabbed up by wonderful, affectionate oxygen atoms. What a party! All the hydrogen and oxygen atoms grabbing each other and dancing together. That was my first time as a water molecule. We became vapor, and lived in the troposphere of planet Earth for a while, until so many of us joined the party that we became a giant water drop and fell towards earth. We quickly evaporated, and like a roller coaster we zipped back and forth, falling, flying, falling again, until one day we turned white, and became a most glorious crystal, flitting and floating down, down, until we landed on a soft brown hand, and a little girl with a chilled nose put us on her tongue.

What a rush! Down the esophagus, stomach… we all got split up. I was absorbed into her blood stream and redistributed to her lungs, wet and pink. Lots of my oxygen friends were there, and some of them grabbed me and we flew out of her lungs, out her mouth and into the frosty air as a soft mist. I rested for a while with my friends as a pile of white snow. When the weather warmed, a lot of my friends waved goodbye and evaporated, but I was close to the brown earth, and a tree root absorbed me. It carried me up, up, through its sap, until I was sky high, and I became a part of a pine needle. I met many carbon atoms, and there were strings of atoms called esters that smelled fresh and sweet like a forest.

I was very happy. Everything was supple and green and fragrant, but after a few months, the tree was cut down. The esters still put out a pine scent for a long time, but my carbon friends started breaking apart, and the little green pine needle turned brown, and the oxygen drifted away until I was alone.

A big boot stepped on me, carrying me to a town with concrete sidewalks. I got stuck in a blob called bubble gum, and there I sat until a man with a shovel tossed me into a waste receptacle.

Lots of my aromatic ester friends were there! But they didn’t smell like pine trees, they smelled more pungent. I was grabbed by some oxygen and hydrogen party friends, and we ended up in a sweet apple core full of carbon buddies.

Eventually, a rat grabbed the apple core and ran us across the street to a warm house. A big man startled the rat, and the apple core was dropped on the lawn. The carbon atoms started breaking apart until the apple core became fertilizer for the lawn and I was evaporated along with my oxygen friends. Along came the man, just in time to breathe us in, but I never made it to the lungs. I got absorbed into his bottom lip, and he walked in the house and gave his wife a kiss. I know I am just an atom but I felt that kiss, and I felt like I was a part of something important. At first, I didn’t understand, but as I was transferred to the woman’s lip, and absorbed into her bloodstream, I was transported to a heart. But—not her heart. It was a second heart, growing in her womb. That is where I am now, on this, my thirteen billionth birthday. I have traveled the universe, but I have never felt such peace and love. If the Universe will grant me one more wish today, then I wish to stay here, and be a protector, a shield, a guardian. I, a hydrogen atom, am immortal. An atom cannot die. But there is something in a child’s heart that is immortal too. Perhaps it is the soul. I do not have the answer, I am just an atom. Perhaps on my fourteen billionth birthday, the Universe will let me know.

 

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The Transgender “Issue”

Judgment can be overcome by education. Being smarter is always a good thing. Loving more is an even better thing!

Years ago, I was walking along the shore with my preschool son when we crossed paths with a one-armed man. I did the typical avert your eyes! thing, but my son smiled at him and pointed, saying, “How come you have one arm?”

Before I could even crawl under a rock, the kind man chuckled and said, “I was born like this.”

“Oh!” said my son, whose curiosity had been sated, and he proceeded to pet the man’s dog, named Peanut. The three of us chatted a moment about the glorious day and Peanut, and we were on our way.

See? We are born innocent, like my son, with no judgment. A four-year-old still sees new things every day. Slowly but surely, life conditions us to judge.  When my son was born, I held him in my arms under the moonlight and we stared at each other. I had never seen his sweet face before that day, but he had never seen a human before that day! He was a brand new little sponge, and his perception of me had not yet been imprinted. He didn’t cry in terror at this big strange body cradling him. He had, perhaps even then, curiosity.

If we could all retain that innocent curiosity for the unknown, perhaps there would be peace in this world.

The first time I met a transgender person, I was at a restaurant, and the host had breasts, eyeliner and a five o’clock shadow. I was a bit shocked and confused—I had never even heard of such a thing. I was polite and didn’t stare, but after I left with my group of friends, we talked about it. I remember thinking it was “weird.” To be honest, I thought the person was weird. I had been conditioned to consider a person “Normal” if they fit the standard, textbook criteria for human.

The guy at the beach didn’t fit the standard, textbook criteria either, he was missing an arm, and it made me feel uncomfortable, until my young son enlightened me.

So when I learned the word Transgender, I remembered to attempt enlightenment. I read some articles, watched some documentaries and tried to open my mind a crack. I have learned that gender association happens in the womb. A person may have the genetic attributes of a male, for example, but have the brain wiring for a female. Its biology.

I came out of the womb a “standard textbook human.” What the hell is that, anyway? I have all kinds of problems and issues, just like everybody else. Mine aren’t as visible as a missing arm or male and female attributes. I suffer from mood swings, and at times, depression. Should I be hated, shunned or stared at for that?

I was a Catholic for years. I walked the walk, talked the talk, gave back to the community and all that. Catholics don’t believe in divorce. I didn’t believe in divorce. But when my marriage fell apart, I became just that—a divorcee. Everything changed after that. My relationship with God, (“How could you let this happen? I am a good person!”) my relationship with the community (“Everyone is whispering behind my back!”) and my relationship with myself (“What a hypocrite! You don’t even believe in divorce!”) I felt like I was torn in two—that the person I was, no longer existed. I also wanted to remarry eventually. Again, not the Catholic way.

It occurred to me, that God cannot love less than I can. That I am in a new skin, a skin called divorcee, and I cannot take it off. It is who I am now. I have to accept that, and I need to accept that God wants me to be happy. That is my religion now, simple and pure. God loves us and wants us to be happy. I do not believe in a cruel god. I believe in a benevolent one. The one who loves us when we find ourselves in new skin—one without an arm, or one with breasts and a five o’clock shadow, or one housing a divorced woman.

Transgender in the military? Do they belong there? I guess it depends. Are we in the military to stare at each other’s skin, or to train to protect and fight for freedom? I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d like to think of America as the land of the free and home of the brave. Feeling driven all your life to alter your gender, and following through against all judging, hateful bias—now that’s brave. Jumping into the fire, feeling like a pariah, pushing ahead anyway with what your conscience tells you to do, now that’s brave. Having the choice to follow through with such a difficult, life altering action—now that’s freedom. God bless America. And God bless Americans—all of them. Let’s each bless the Transgenders too, by supporting their journey and career choice and making them feel loved and welcome, especially if they are willing to lay down their lives for us.

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Father’s Day Musings

Father's Day Musings by Rose Winters
Father’s Day Musings

As I reflect on Father’s day, I find myself thinking of how I parented my own children. I am a mom actually, not a dad, but as a parent I can say this much—I tried my best. I loved my children with all my soul as most parents do. I didn’t delve into manuals and “How to” books much. I believed motherhood and its lessons would come naturally, organically. Would it have made a difference if I had enrolled in classes, read libraries of information, taken it more seriously as something I could mess up? Perhaps. And I did mess up. Many, many times. I also hit home runs once in a while, where I said or did just the right thing. Sometimes I took advice from wise, experienced family and friends, and sometimes I took another course. Sometimes I couldn’t bear to look and I’d put blinders on. And sometimes I dove headlong into the fire for my children.

As a child I thought my dad was the most magnificent man on earth. I loved him unconditionally—I almost thought he was magic. The pendulum swung far into fairy land and rose-colored glasses. Like Mary Poppins’ measuring tape, the pendulum read, “Practically Perfect in every way!”

As a teen, I noticed every mistake he made, every grumble, every wrong step. Mind you, by then he had five of us! He came up imperfect after all, and at one point I “ran away from home” for a whole night and cried on my friend’s shoulder about my Dad, who “Didn’t care about me at all.” The pendulum swung hard the other way, into the bitter, harsh reality that my dad was not the perfect man I thought he was. The pendulum read, “You’re mean.”

When I had teens of my own, and felt the frustrations of their hormonal chaos, I remembered how I had once judged my dad. I called him and told him how wonderful he was, and how grateful I was for all his patience, grace and love over the years. The pendulum swung back where it belonged, squarely in the middle, reading “Human.”

What a relief to realize that we can in fact try and fail, try and succeed, try and fail, like the tides, and know that it is okay to be human beings. At the end of the day, we give all we have, with the very best of intentions, for the love of our children.

And so I say, to all you “Perfect,” “Mean” and “Just Plain Human” dads, have a wonderful, blessed Father’s Day, and know that you are loved.

Good Morning Silver: a poem to wish you a happy day!

Good morning silver,Good Morning Silver, a poem

good morning day

Good morning you sneaky sun

Hiding your ray

Good morning bickering birds

In the tree

Good morning dear crow, are you laughing at me?

 

Good morning fat spider too busy to rest

Good morning you flowers in your Sunday best

Good morning dear world, I am feeling your peace

Good morning dear people from the west to the east

 

Good morning to those who are worried and sad

Here’s a little reminder that things aren’t all bad

 

We may think we can’t make a difference at all

That the world is too big and one voice is too small

But a silver sky lifted my spirits today

And a moment was perfect with clouds of gray

 

Be still. Look up. For a moment, relax

If we hear the world, it will listen back

 

So good morning silver, I’ll be on my way

Thank you. I’m ready now, bring on the day

 

Here are some similar poems I wrote! One is about a bee, from the BEE’S perspective, which was  fun to write, I got to fly and everything! Wheeee!

 One is about a spider, and honestly I think spiders get a bad rap. You’ve got to admit they’re kinda cute! A little cute? Okay, maybe its just me. They’re deliciously macabre too! And just plain cool!

And one cozy “Curl up under a blanket with a cup of tea” poem about a misty morning! Enjoy!

And in case you don’t know, I’m a musician too! You can take a listen here, or come see a live performance!  Also, thank you Heather Walters, writer and blog genius extraordinaire,  for turning me on to Unsplash.com, for beautiful copyright-safe photos!

 

The Rise and Fall of a Bee

 

BeeIt’s dark. Sticky. Air thick with damp sweetness. My body vibrates to free a pair of stiff, wet things on my back. Lifting, drying, beating, whizzing. Wings!

Off I go. Hunger. Light! Wind! Brightness! Zing! Zoom! Ha ha! Whee!

Hunger. A taste in the air. A wafting sugary mix of color and scent. Lavendar, pink, yellow, magenta explosion of sensations for my kaleidoscope eyes. So many flavors, how do I choose?

I land on a fragrant yellow pillow. Mmm. Step step step giggle, look at my funny black legs, now wearing yellow socks!

Zzzip, off I go. Whiz, whirl, dizzy silly fun! Pink! Ooh pink next! Step step step, look at my legs now! And look at the pink pillow, covered with my little yellow footprints. Pollination! Oh so very important am I!

Pungent. Powerful. What is that intoxicating smell? I go down down down into the forest of green blades. A red apple on the ground, squishy soft and oozing. Taste taste taste. Feast feast feast. Oh dear. Fermented. My head is light. I try to fly but I reel. Drunken me. Buzz buzz buzz, I can only lay on the brown earth, humming and batting my wings in a stupor.

Fresh air, a light gust of wind. My head is clearing. Phew. I feel better. I can smell the colors again. I am hungry. I am me again. I shake my body, tremble my wings. I am ready to fly. But a great shadow blocks the light. All is darkness. I hear a voice. A giant! A human child. I am trapped under her foot!

Wiggle wiggle. I feel the pressure. I am being pushed into the earth! Squiggle squiggle. The child, tall as a bush, and me so small. But I have a weapon! I arch my back and raise my poison sword. I stab to save my life. Sting sting sting!

Loud scream. Shouts and cries. Another human approaches. Quickly I tremble my wings. Zip! Zoom!

Dodge, evade, what is this? A hand, batting me! Shouting, more hands, swatting, flailing.

Dive, twirl, POW!

I am struck. I fall. Down, down into the grass forest. I land on a soft leaf. I am oozing, like the apple. I tremble my wings but they cannot lift me. The leaf is fragrant. Sweet smelling. All is dark. Thick, sweet and dark, like my birth. I am important. I am important. I am important. If only I had more time…

The yellow footprints in the pink grow a lovely apple, and a child is fed.

I’ll Do It When I’m Dead: A procrastinator’s guide to… pretty much nothing

I am a musician, a novelist, a blogger, a song-writer, and master procrastinator. I have lofty goals, huge dreams, and a question: How the heck do I never have time for any of my projects? I shall examine this. Here’s “A day in the life of Rose…”

I get up and ease into the day. Soft robe, steaming coffee,slippers feet up. Hubby’s on the workout bike for another hour. I’ll wait for my turn. I’m not quite awake yet.

Dressed for a workout. The phone rings. A dear friend. I sit back down on the couch and we have a lovely chat.

My hubby asks for some help with his business. A write-up, a few important documents to put together. This is important. It brings home the bacon. It’s just a couple hours. I’m also supposed to spend at least an hour a day writing a blog, journal, novel or other. I think, “I’ll do that tomorrow, first thing.” We get right to work on his paperwork.

I change out of my workout clothes. I never did work out. And now, I have to get ready for work.

Pressed, dressed and showered, make-up on, hair done. I still have an hour. I look at the recording studio. I am supposed to be writing music, a minimum of an hour a day. But it takes a while to turn on, boot up, I have to set up my keyboard which is already in the car for my gig. I guess I’ll do that tomorrow too.

So I do the dishes and a bit of tidying up and I’m off to work, performing at a night club.

I get home at 11 pm. The gig was okay, but I had a hard time connecting with the audience, no matter what I played. I think I felt a bit blah, and it probably showed. Now I’m feeling disappointed with myself and I’m not quite ready for bed. Hubby is sleeping peacefully. Ooh, I know! I’ll cheer myself up with a glass of wine, some chips and my favorite show on Netflicks! On goes the robe, and I watch TV for an hour. Or two.

Finally sleepy, I crawl into bed and stare at the ceiling. I look back on my day and think, “I shouldn’t have had that wine and chips right before bed. All those empty calories, and I never even got to work out. Aaand, another day went by and I didn’t touch my art. Too bad I didn’t have time. Tomorrow, then.”

 

Well, its tomorrow. Again. Let’s revisit this, shall we?

 

I get up. Reach for my snuggly soft robe. Tackle my own hand away from that cuddly time-bandit and put on my workout clothes instead. Oops. Hubby’s on the work-out bike already. No worries. I’ll write my blog now.

An hour later I’ve got a fun story. I’m laughing at my silly wit and feeling high from the endorphins writing gives me.

I hop on the bike and the phone rings. I don’t answer, I text back, “Can I call you on my way to work this afternoon?”

“Sure!” Is the answer. That was easy!

I have a great workout! Now my endorphins have endorphins!

I’m about to jump in the shower, excited to get into the recording studio. I can already tell I’ll write some good music, my creative juices are really flowing. But my hubby asks, “Can you help me for a bit?”

I feel a stab of disappointment. I’m glad to help, but doing book-keeping is a huge waste of endorphins—endorphins that I worked hard to build up, so I could have that creative energy. I feel a stab of guilt too, at thinking of saying no, when I know he needs my help. “Can we work in a couple of hours?”

“Sure,” he says, without a second thought.

So I write a song I’m excited about, and walk out of the studio brimming with satisfaction, fulfilled as an artist. Guilt-free, I cuddle up next to my hubby on the couch and we work together on my laptop. Even though its technically business, we make it “Us” time, laughing and being silly in-between the number crunching.

Time for me to go to work. I make that phone call to my friend on the way and we have a great conversation.

On stage, I’m really happy and it shows, and the audience is wonderful. I feel so lucky and blessed to be a musician.

I come home, and I feel like I want a reward for such a great day. I reach for a glass of wine and think, “You know what? I think my reward will be a good night’s sleep, so I can get an early start on the day tomorrow. I have so much inside of me, waiting to get out!”

Life is awesome. Really, truly awesome, like the rush of riding a galloping horse. I just have to keep my hands on the reins and keep riding forward over the next hill, or I’ll end up back in the stall before I’m ready. Sometimes moving forward means, well… saying neigh.

Moving Day: Bruised and Smiling in Paradise

Moving day. Oh joy! I’m covered with bruises from head to toe and I have a mountain of boxes in the back yard. But guess what? I have a back yard! I feel pretty darned moving-boxesblessed. There are humming birds here, by the dozens. I’ve never seen that before! A cricket slipped into the house with one of the boxes–a sign of good luck.

Champions in the form of family came with their laughter, strength and incredible stamina, hauling heavy boxes, furniture and stone. (Yup, stone. My hubby deals in stone!) I was a culprit too, with my cumbersome weighted keyboards, speakers and power amps. I am, after all, a musician! Everyone left black and blue and scraped all over, christening our new haven with their beautiful presence, positive attitudes and eyes glistening with approval. It really is a lovely place. I’m so very grateful for my heroes!

Moving day is a fresh beginning. We worked hard (really, really hard,) decided exactly what we wanted in a home, took our time and found just the right place for our needs today. A spacious office for Anthony, a recording studio for my music, a sun room for my writing space and a meandering back yard filled with trees and blossoms.

This is a home for family, for parties, for tranquil breakfasts outside with musical birds–and for creativity.

The kitchen is small, but that’s a good thing. It gave me an excuse to get my mother’s hutch out of storage and fill it with my favorite dishes and glasses. Now when I open the front door I am greeted with a wave of nostalgia, seeing a piece from my childhood home in Oregon breathing life again. My dad will be thrilled when he sees the hutch—since Mom passed he is so lonely for memories of the life he had with her.

When I write, I always attempt to find a peaceful, pretty place that fills me with serenity. This garden is filled with artists’ nooks and crannies. Right now I am outside  looking at the mountain of boxes and the bruises they gave me, and I smile. The boxes are empty, my heart is full, my soul is fed. I think wonderful things are about to happen. I know they are. A cricket told me.

Ode to a Pen

A writer with ink makes a rainy day shinepen

A terrible dragon, an angel divine

 

Turns words into heroines, letters to gore

From pages to sages and paper to lore

 

The throne: author’s rickety desk and a chair

The castle: bohemian vagabond lair

The chariot: Hand-me-down car needing paint

The banquet: Lap leftovers on a chipped plate

 

Mightier than the sword, so they say

Endlessly scribbling from night into day

Hours on end with a modern day quill

If only this pen could just pay one bill…

In Memory of Jimmy McShane: An excerpt from my Journal, June 2006

Jimmy McShaneThe world lost an amazing man, whom I am honored to call friend. Jimmy McShane was a rock star of a manager and entrepreneur, and lived life like an explosion of joy and positive energy. He filled a room with his presence, and if you were lucky enough to be his friend, he made you feel like the most important person in the world. He worked with me at Scalini back in 2006, and I pulled up a journal entry that makes me smile. I wanted to share it– a great night, with Jimmy being Jimmy!

 

Thursday night, the band Hall and Oates were playing down the street at the fairgrounds.

Jimmy McShane, my friend and effervescent manager, said with exuberance, “Hall and Oates is coming here after the show! Maybe they’ll discover you!”

I laughed it off, and Jimmy kept teasing me.

Jimmy is very eccentric, and everyone always likes him—he gets away with so much because he’s just so gregarious and fun!

Anyway, after the band came in, (the dining room—I was in the bar) he dragged me over to meet the band. I met Darryl Hall, the big star, and T-Bone, his really nice bass player, and a handsome P.R. guy named Justin. I politely greeted them, and was very surprised to hear them really, sincerely complimenting me, one musician to another. They treated me as a peer and really made me feel good. They loved my bluesy style and Darryl said I played piano just like him.

Jimmy was over the top, and started shouting playfully, “You can’t steal her—please don’t steal her away from Scalini!”

So funny!

Anyway, I walked back to the piano, and the room was empty of all customers by now, except the three musicians in the dining room and Jimmy. It was time for me to pack up and go home, but just then they finished their dinner and sat at my piano bar.

To make a long story short, we had a blast, and I played an extra two hours, just for them. T Bone was the first to join me, by hanging over the piano sideways and kicking bass on my Korg keyboard. I laughed and relinquished my “axe,” moving my left hand down to double the bass on the piano, and soon Darryl came running to the other side of me, vamping solos on my Korg as I played piano with my right hand. Jimmy was pumping his fists, so happy to get such a crazy personal concert! They wanted to hear my originals, so I just played and played, and we were laughing and they were singing along. Finally, Darryl sat at the piano and played for me, with T Bone kicking bass and Jimmy just about passing out with exuberance shouting,  “You can’t have her! She’s ours! No stealing Rose!” What an awesome night!