Category Archives: love

Terrorism: The World Is On Fire

Dear readers,

I try to keep this blog light and only talk about things that pertain to my cozy mysteries. But I am a writer, which means words are the way I work things out for my own sanity. Today–in the aftermath of yet another act of terrorism and senseless loss of lives–I feel the need to write about this, to make some sense of it, because my heart is heavy and the world is on fire:

How do we fight terrorism?

match flame

First, I feel like we have to acknowledge this particular pathology is a part of us all and stop thinking it’s “us” against “them”.  It’s not.  We are all vulnerable to becoming “them” because the problem is inherent to human nature. What is this problem, this disease…this fire that’s spreading and consuming our peace, our humanity and our future? It’s this:

A willingness to embrace a particular idea or ideology at all costs. To let an idea, a religion,  a deep emotional/psychological wound or even fear separate us from one another while we stand with unyielding conviction on that idea, condemning those around us who don’t embrace it. This common human condition is  what terrorists are suffering from, they’re just acting on it with extreme violence. It’s the underlying ideology of separation and condemnation which spreads fear and hatred and must be stopped.

Sure, once this violent ideology is embraced, a  terrorist, with no value for life, is born and they become the threat…because how do you fight someone who doesn’t want to live? How do you fight the already dead?

I know it would be ideal to bring them back to life. To lead them back to the land of the living by rooting out whatever weaponized belief system they hold from their clenched fists and closed minds. I also know that’s probably not possible. And it’s tragic… It’s tragic that so many of our fellow human beings are choking on the ashes of their charred humanity.  If I could make a wish for them–and for us–it would be that they could once again taste the sweet innocence of childhood; jump start their dead hearts with an act of charity instead of violence; hear a kind word; fall in love instead of commit rape; see the ray of sun through the black clouds instead of the storm behind it… heal from whatever festering wound their starved hearts are suffering from.

If only…

I have no answers. I don’t think anyone does. But I know that feeding their hatred with returned violence is not the answer. But neither is silence. We must all speak up, come together and leave our own ideology at the door.

Because the only thing I do know for sure is there cannot be peace until we learn to accept each other’s beliefs and ideas without trying to change them with violence, control and containment. In other words…letting ideas and beliefs start wars.

We have to care for each other, love each other. If we don’t, we are them. We are dead already.

 

Elephants Take the Stage

I wrote a post awhile back, about elephants, after taking our boys to the circus and having a very unexpected emotional reaction. I left there with a heavy heart and a promise to educate myself about the elephants’ life in captivity. This is a follow-up post to what I’ve learned.

One of the questions that came up in the comments was whether the elephants are better off in captivity because the wild has become an inhospitable place with an  ever-shrinking habitat and resources and poachers thinning herds yearly by the thousands. Plus, they’re intelligent creatures, maybe they enjoy learning tricks and performing for us?

I’ve watched some horrifying videos of elephants being abused by circus workers “training” them to perform, and I’ve also read the opinions of people defending such practices of using chains, ropes and bull-hooks. But, last night I stumbled upon a HBO documentary called “An Apology to the Elephants” and it was the nail in the coffin for me. Elephants have been shown to experience grief, trauma and depression. Living in chains, being intimidated into entertaining us and having their calves separated from them forcefully causes them pain. There’s no doubt left in my mind. We are harming these majestic creatures.

Here are some facts from the documentary:

• Roughly 38,000 elephants a year are killed for their tusks. At this rate, we will have wiped out their entire species in the wild in ten years. TEN YEARS.

• Over 50% of elephants in captivity will die of foot-related disease. These are creatures built to roam, not stand on hard surfaces for hours.

• It is still legal to keep an elephant chained for up to 19 hours a day.

• In the wild, they spend 16 hours a day roaming and foraging for food. Their bodies are built for this, and the swaying motion you see in zoos and circuses is from the anxiety of not being able to act on this natural instinct.

Believe me, I know there are issues in the world closer to home than making sure elephants don’t go extinct and aren’t abused and suffering in our hands. And I know that there’s only so much one person can do. But, this is my personal burden now.

So, here are some simple ways you can help:

• Don’t buy ivory

• Don’t support circuses

• Do support elephant sanctuaries and zoos that give them room to roam, like the Oakland Zoo

• If you’d like to get more involved, support PAWS Elephant Sanctuary

• Pass this knowledge on!

On a positive note, Britain has recently banned wild animals from being used in circuses. It will take effect in 2015. We need to follow their lead! As the documentary stated, “Zoos can be fixed, circuses cannot.”

Thanks for reading this far. Stepping off my soapbox now. If you have a cause you’re passionate about, please talk to me about it!

♥This post is dedicated to the memory of Topsy♥  (Warning, this is a very disturbing story)

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Flash: Mario’s Goddess

Mario fell in love with the goddess of war. Of course, he knew her as Alice Lois, the green-eyed woman trapped at Lake View Sanatorium since the courts deemed her insane at aged seventeen. He had been sticking pills on her tongue for a decade. Two months ago, she had looked at him for the first time. It shook him to his core.

He snuck into her records, finding a yellowed spiral notebook with crude drawings and symbols etched in the cover. He stuffed it into the waistband of his scrubs and took it home, violating all the laws of his personal ethics. He had to drink three Lagers before he could bring himself to open it.

When he finally did, her words made him want to take up a sword and protect her, fight whatever demon was harassing her:

‘My fears are winter wolves charging through the snow, tongues wagging, murderous eyes locked onto me. I don’t know why she has chosen me to destroy but I am the damned. Bitten by a darkness so black, it has seeped into my soul like an oil spill.’

He flipped forward, sinking deeper into her story, his heart being kneaded like dough:

‘I can feel her possession of me. My body is now just a furnace with an angry goddess burning within. She wants revenge, freedom from the chains of anonymity, to not be lost, forgotten or laughed off as a myth. She is hungry for bloodshed.’

He read until stars replaced dusk, until his eyes tired and his heart softened.

Morning found him standing over her, eyeing the pale curve of her cheek, a colorless mouth, the impossibly thin frame, the wide straps holding down this ghost of a woman.

She did not belong here. As if she could read his mind, her eyes opened. The brilliant life within her almost blinded him.

“My name is Enyo.” The only words she would ever speak to him.

He carefully released her, lifted her, placed her waiflike body folded into a laundry carrier, stripped her sheets and lay them atop her, being mindful to leave an air pocket for breathing.

The basement door was not monitored.

It took twenty four hours for the Asenapine to wear off. He fed her oxtail soup, bathed her without removing her underwear, washed her hair on the couch from a bowl and wrapped her in his grandmother’s blanket. He played her an awkward song he was writing on a second hand guitar. He wondered what their kids would look like. Would they have her blinding green eyes?

Two days later, he awoke from his post on the living room floor and she was gone. He scoured the streets for hours then days then weeks. He forgot to shave and change his clothes. Sometimes he remembered to eat. Mostly he wept and tried to hold her image in his mind. It was slipping with his weight, his hygiene and his sanity.

“Breaking news from Washington. The President of the United States is dead.”

Mario froze in front of the portable radio, the centerpiece of people gathered on the apartment stairs. They shushed him when he approached.  Shock twisted their mouths and eyes.

“Treaties have broken down in the past few weeks between the President’s special Peace for Progress Council and the terrorists who held four major US cities hostage just twelve months ago. Details are still coming in…” the voice paused. “We also have reports of coordinated attacks in Atlanta, Chicago and Austin. Thousands are believed perished.” More dead air and then an ear piercing siren.

“This is an emergency message from Homeland Security. Please stay calm and walk to nearest terrorist shelter for further instructions.”

As the message repeated itself–echoing from car radios, shops and bars—Mario sat down on the sidewalk curb and watched the scampering, the screaming, the panic. He began to chuckle, to laugh in loud, manic bursts until he was holding his stomach. What else was there to do but watch and listen?

It was a symphony. And his beautiful goddess was the conductor.

Friday Flash: Breaking the Mold

When she was small, we created people out of cookie dough, Jell-O, stories, clay and mud. There were molds of almost every shape available: holiday gingerbread men, scarecrows, ghosts, Barbie. There was no mold for a little girl or a perfect mother. Those things have to be specially crafted, shaped by hand, cooked on low heat so there is no searing or melting involved.

She grows taller, breaks the mold. Becomes a sailor. The horizon is closer than you think, but you can’t convince a sailor because they know the world is round, life is a circle. They know the ride is sun-soaked, full of sea-winds whipping through the insignificant parts of the journey.  I will be back around some day, she says. I stay close, dipping my toes in the sea. Water is an excellent conductor, of energy and also of ideas. The idea that insignificance is a mirage, for instance. A silvery fish slips beneath my foot, a caress. It is enough. Drifting used to be enough for her, now she is steering.  An island where the waves lap at white sand glints close by. Another mirage? Only she can know. I am on a different shore.

Funny thing about little girls and perfect mothers. They are one in the same and yet neither. They are their own mirage, ideas of our own making. Ghosts shaped by matter. Shaped by each other’s dreams, shaped by bird songs, molds of words, ideas, wars and passion long gone, the whisper of fate. Shaped by hope that, like the potential flower curled up in the tiny seed, bursts forth to create and destroy its own container.

It’s a Sunday morning when the meaning of life occurs to her.  She is gray and lumpy from all the kneading, the twisting, the falls during her journey through space-time.  Eyes open wide, pupils dilate, laughter percolates, gains speed and force and rips the reigns from her bone thin fingers. The freedom startles her. She hears the white-crested-laughing-thrush in her own cry. She no longer cares why the caged bird sings. Or the free bird. She no longer cares why waves crest and foam, why the sun’s light is gentler from the moon, why the unpredictable nature of life is the only foundation worthy of a little girl or a perfect mother. It just is.  It just does.  And it is beautiful.

(photo credit: Marius Fiskum)

Friday Flash: An Angel Gets His Wings

My name is Griffin. I’m eight years old and I’m an angel. No one believes me until I show them the wing knobs on my back. Then they look at me differently. They treat me special. I still remember the day mom told me. I was watching the bees on the clovers. I really love bees. Mom called me over, her eyes were watering from the bright sun and she hugged me so tight. She said I would always be her angel. I, of course, reminded her I was a boy and she got that funny smile and rubbed my back.

“You feel these two bumps,” she said. “This is where your wings were. God had to remove them when He gave you to me so you wouldn’t fly off the earth.”

A little while later my mom did fly off the earth. I guess she was an angel, too. I miss her lots still. I miss her smell. She smelled like clovers and wind. My new home smells like old socks and baby diapers. But it’s warm and I have new friends. Well, the boys aren’t very nice. They like to pinch and make red spots on my arms. I’m not sure why they think this is funny, but I laugh with them. Mom said I had to try hard to act like other kids so they didn’t take me away from her.

I miss the bees, too. When I grow up I’m going to make bees out of glass. Glass the color of their honey and clear glass for their tiny wings. Miss Joan calls this daydreaming. She says its time for me to go into the real world. This is called school.

The school bus picks us all up at the mailbox. I step into the bus but get stuck right there next to the big sweaty man driver. He is staring at me. “Get moving,” he says. But I can’t. The noise is a wall, I can’t think to move my feet. I wish the kids would stop being so loud all together. My mouth is stuck, too. I begin to cry and the sweaty man tells the girl behind him to move over and he nods. “Sit there.”  After that the boys call me Sniffin’ Griffin.

We each have our own desk at school. Mine is cold and hard. Miss Gregory is my teacher. She stares at us through purple framed glasses and makes little sighing noises. I don’t think she’s happy. I want to make her happy. I try really hard. Only, I have never played the game Seven Up before so I don’t know to keep my head on the desk and she says I was cheating and I am now out of the game. Then she tells the kids to stop laughing, that it’s not funny and I’m glad she doesn’t think it’s funny either.

At lunchtime Big Rob accidently spills cherry Jell-O in my hair. I’m allowed to go to the restroom and wash it out. It takes a long time to dry and so I don’t get to eat my own Jell-O. On the bus ride home, the girl keeps saying “gross” when my stomach makes noises. The boys start to hit me in the back of the head with their books. The driver yells. I feel frozen again. I think about my glass bees until it’s time to get off the bus.

I am good with numbers. I make a chart to show how many days until Christmas. My mom used to say Christmas is a time for miracles. I’m asking for God to give me my wings back so I can go find my mom.

Christmas morning I am waiting by the mailbox. I don’t know why the other kids are watching me in the window and laughing. They must think it’s funny they are going to miss the bus. My nose and fingers are numb. I make buzzing bee noises and this seems to warm me up. Then bells join in. Ding. Ding. I jump, surprised by how loud they are. Church bells, I think.

I step out to hear them better. I don’t see the car.

There is a loud screaming from the car and then no more church bells. No more noise. Just light. Light is burning my eyes, soaking me with heat like the hottest sun and then she is there. My mom, with that funny smile, is hugging me.  She smells like honey and heaven and slips her hand into mine and I feel my own wings lift me from the ground. Happiness fills me like a balloon because my wish has come true.

This is the best Christmas ever.

Friday Flash: Her Migration

monarch2

“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”

“It’s a ripped wing.”

“No, not the damn butterfly, Gracie. You. What’s wrong with you.”

A faint rustle in the shoe box moves Gracie’s attention from the computer screen. She peers in.  One burnt orange wing beats frantically against the side.

“No, no, pretty girl. Shhhh,” she whispers into the box. Then to her husband, “You’ve startled her. She needs a calm environment.” She hums until its wings settle down into a slow, rhythmic pulse. It crawls onto the mushy pear she’s given it to eat. Satisfied, she goes back to the screen.

Hal throws up his hands and leaves her.

Dusk arrives behind the closed bedroom blinds. Gracie has amassed the needed supplies and begins the operation. Leaving the lights dim and Clair de Lune playing in the background, she pinches the wings together, lifts the creature from the box and pins her down on a towel with a looped wire hanger around her head, thorax and abdomen.

“Comfy dear?” She carefully fans out the ripped forewing. “Don’t worry, this won’t hurt a bit. Scary, though. I know. You don’t know what’s happening, what I’m doing to your body. Sometimes I wonder if that’s better…ignorance.” Clipping a tiny rectangle from cardstock, she measures it against the tear, trims it a bit smaller. “There, that should do it.” With a toothpick, she carefully spreads adhesive on the makeshift bandage. While she waits for it to dry, she watches the tiny legs twitch, the antennae swim in the air.

“Fascinating creature, you are. Filled with poison and yet fragile, fragile as the ones who come to eat you and die.” Gracie squeezes her eyes closed so as not to flood her patient. “Okay,” she wipes at her cheeks and straightens her back. “Ready for phase two.”

Making sure the black veins line up, she pinches the tiny rectangle with tweezers and positions it over the tear. This takes a few attempts and she has to hold her breath to keep her hand from shaking.

“I believe you will survive,” she whispers. Her attention wanders to her own hand; skin as thin as the butterfly’s wing, puffy blue veins like ropes running its length. “Such a short journey. We must…,” she takes in a breath. “Yes! That’s it. You must finish your journey! No reason for you to sit around this house. Oh, but it’s probably too cold for you now.” She lifts the wire hanger and encourages the monarch to turn over. “Well, go on. They should work now.” The wings shutter once, sweep up and down. Once. Then twice. Then she is airborne.

“Yes!” Gracie claps, gray eyes glistening. She watches the creature flutter around the room for a few minutes, landing on her pink rose bed spread. “Haldon!”

Hal rushes into the room, one hand on his chest, wide eyes darting about.

“What’s wrong?” Gracie asks, when she sees his face.

“What’s wrong?” he drops his hand to his hip. “What do you mean what’s wrong? You’re the one who yelled for me.”

“Oh,” She ignores his tone. Behind the anger is fear, she knows. She also knows it is better he doesn’t know exactly what he has to fear. Like the butterfly. Ignorance is a gift.

“Will you drive me to that truck stop on Central Avenue?”

“Plaza 23?”

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

His shoulders slump. He looks for a moment like he is going to ask her why, but then he just shakes his head. “Yes, Grace. If it will make you happy, I’ll drive you to the truck stop.”

Three days later, she gets the call.

“Hi, is this Miss Grace Adams?”

“Yes.”

“Hey, this is Mac Barnes…the truckdriver?” He pauses.  He can’t see the hope welling up in her swollen eyes, the Kleenex clutched to her mouth. “Well, I ah, just called to give you the good news.”

Gracie exhales. Her lungs ache like she’s been holding her breath for three days.

“She made it to Florida?”

“Yep. Dropped her off in a place with lots of wild flowers near Ocala. I watched her fly off. She’s good. Should be able to migrate with the rest of ‘em. That’s something, huh?”

“Oh, thank you, Mac. Thank you for giving her a ride.”

“No problem. You take care now.”

Gracie hangs up and looks over at her husband of thirty years. It’s time.  She can face it now. Now that she remembers how to hope for the impossible.

“Hal,” she slips her hand into his and braces herself for the flood of his grief. She holds onto the image of the broken butterfly now hundreds of miles away, continuing on her journey. “Dr. Brennan has given me three months. It’s cancer.”

(based on a true tale of butterfly heroes)

FridayFlash: Birth of an Idol

candles

My Mama says our new neighbor, Mr. Charles, lives alone because his wife died, but today I am having lunch with Mr. Charles and his dead wife.

Her eyes are glass, cat’s eye marbles with sweeping blue waves and tiny bubbles. Cluster pearls are clipped onto her walnut ears. Dust motes and steam, from the Hungarian goulash, create a mist around her. I try not to stare; it’s rude.

“Best you’ll ever have, Henry. Eat up, Son.”

“Yes, Mr. Charles.” I dip my spoon into the empty bowl and bring it to my lips.

“She makes it with tomatoes fresh from the garden; that’s her secret.” He reaches over and pats her hand, meticulously recreated from sardine bones, being careful not to disturb the thin gold band. I nod, glancing through the window at the yawning square of cracked ground and petrified vines beyond the porch.  I dip my spoon again and shove air into my dry mouth. It’s only polite.

We sit like this for a long time and I begin to wonder if he’s forgotten I’m here. I steal a glance at the stained glass hearts clinging to the window. They glow like fresh blood in the sunlight.

“Tea?”

“Okay.” I stop holding my breath.

He stands wearily, removes both our bowls from the table. The steam clears and I glimpse the painful cracks around her wax lips. Still, she smiles. This must be why he loves her. He lowers a yellowing doily in front of her, places a white ceramic cup gently on the doily. Steam rises once again and moisture accumulates on her eyes. He baptizes the teabag in the boiling water, scoops out some honey from a half-full jar and stirs it into the cup. A series of high pitched dings follow. My cup remains empty, but I don’t bring it up.

“Her dad used to raise honey bees, bring raw buckwheat honey in for their tea. Why she’s so sweet,” he chuckles.

The air is thick around us and I sit very still so I don’t disturb anything. I am becoming aware of the numbness in my bottom, but I don’t dare squirm. I can almost feel her approval at this, at my stillness. We drink our tea like this. In silence.

“You’re a good boy. We’re glad to have you in the neighborhood.” He shakes my hand and I feel the dry trembling.

As I slide awkwardly out of the chair, I am possessed by a sudden urge to give her something. I remember the four leaf clover I found in our own yard and reach deep into my pocket. It’s a bit wilted and ripped in one corner, but it did take me almost a whole hour on my knees to find. Still a worthy sacrifice. I place it by her fish bone hand and whisper into the tiny caverns of the walnut. I whisper that if she can hear me I would like to taste a bit of the soup and tea and honey for myself next time. Then I think maybe I am being ungrateful and add “sorry” and “thank you”.

“We’ll see you next Sunday then?” he calls.