Writing with Energy

Dearly beloved writers,

It’s my favorite time of year. Today I hosted writing at my house. Only four of our eight Monday Writers BLOC writers were able to attend, but we had fun. I was leading because I love having people over during this holiday. I made deviled eggs and also served coffee and cookies. Others brought chips, grapes, and a veggie platter. We were well fed.


I used A Playful Way to Serious Writing by Roberta Allen for two warm-up exercises.We associated words with abstract art and then picked the word with the most energy to write on. Roberta Allen explains (page 18) that a word has energy if

–You feel the tiniest pinprick of feeling
–Your eye is drawn to it instantly
–You find yourself thinking about it
–It conjures a strong association
–You feel moved or excited
–You feel irritated or disturbed

The six words that came to mind when I looked at the piece of abstract art were Tangle, Clots, Synapses, Tadpoles, Yarn and Ebola. (This illustration came from page 25 of Roberta Allen’s book)


I wrote for 10 minutes on Ebola because that was the most disturbing word from my list, and therefore had the most energy. The write led me to remember being in a museum in South Dakota where I saw a piece of Native American art (shown below).


I wrote:  “The thing which grabbed me was a large canvas made of buffalo skin. On it was a history of the tribe – one symbol per year drawn in a spiral. Many years were represented in this way. The artist had to pick one thing from the entire year to symbolize the overriding essence of the year. Early in the spiral was a symbol for a plague -a disease that had practically wiped out the tribe. It was drawn with lots of spots like measles – although I don’t remember what disease it was (possibly small pox).  The abstract art shown in Roberta Allen’s book reminded me of the tangled Ebola virus depicted under an electron microscope and flashed many times across our TV screens.” I wrote that Roberta Allen’s abstract art piece could easily be a symbol for the fear we in the US and other parts of the world are expressing this year about this Ebola pestilence.

I enjoyed this writing warm up because it combined two mediums — art and writing — and Allen nailed the concept of “energy” for me when it’s about writing on a word or phrase. Normally I would have avoided writing about Ebola. I would have written about something safe like tadpoles or tangles. But instead, by diving into my fear and abhorrence, I connected with a piece I saw in a South Dakota museum last September. I made a gut-level connection with the Native American artist — and it wasn’t planned at all. This was spontaneous, stream-of-consciousness writing warm-up.

Lynda La Rocca handed out this month’s poetry assignment, due October 2: Nonsense Verse, ala Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. “It’s simply fun to make up words and rhyming sounds,” she said. “Play with language, invent your own language, and let your imagination run wild.”

After many discouraging attempts to wrap my “sense of fun” around this assignment (and I couldn’t bear showing up empty handed), I found my salvation in a cookbook titled Against All Grain by Danielle Walker.


To create this poem, I first wrote my thoughts about the recipe in English, followed by the ingredients, followed by how you put the recipe together. All of this I wrote down one side of the computer screen.  Then I made up my own words for the nouns, verbs, adjectives and an adverb or two for each line. Here is how it turned out:

Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos                                        Translation

Loquator to arnish for my infortiones                           I want to cook for my friends
Tucarnay wu-cuti as much as I glato                            I avoid the kitchen as much as I can
Grabben zebratnik up troboniones                              I have recipes up the wazoo
Urgortay as soon as I’ve kelepulato                            Yet forget them as soon as I’ve made one

Grabben arnishbod with fanelovent tumkwats             I have a cookbook with fantastic pictures
Inken kelepula ze doodle nerduk                                 Plan to make chicken tacos
Here are ze gludens: Arnishcan Flum Niwats               Here are the ingredients: Slow Cooker Tacos
Doodle griz thrum and doodle griz ruque                     Boneless chicken thighs, boneless chicken breasts

Fanlotes in secane, small yellow wunione                    Tomatoes in juices, small yellow onion
Garzapos uponti, credendum elan                               Serrano chilies, chipped cilantro
Curcur, pontizan, zander, pistoni                                  Cumin, chili powder, coriander, sea salt
Olivo paperis, paperis turcan                                       Cayenne pepper, black pepper

Placato ze gludens arnishcan flum niwats                     Place all ingredients in a slow cooker
Loquat on moflum for verkins exteen                            Cook on low for five hours
Bortom ze doodle, carlinda with sli dots                         Remove the chicken, shred with two forks
Disuit to lem for verkin plantain                                     Then return to sauce for additional hour

The most difficult part was coming up with words. I worked on it last night when my brain was tired. The easy part was creating the rhyme scheme–I made up words that rhymed of course!  And the meter worked itself out fairly effortlessly.

As an addendum to the assignment, Lynda said to include a glossary, containing your own made-up definitions, mock scholarly notes, word source materials to explain some or all of the words that you’ve made up.  WELL, I did this too in a slap-dash fashion. Here are a few of the glossary items:

Arnish – verb, to cook
Arnishbod – noun, cookbook (derived from arnish, to cook, and bod, book)
Arnishcan – noun, cooker (derived from arnish, to cook, and the suffix can, meaning that which does the cooking)

Doodle – noun, chicken (derived from the English, cock-a-doodle-do)

Pontizan – noun, chili powder (derived from Uponti, chili, and zan, powder)

Trobonione – adverb, meaning “where there are many things,” such as “up the wazoo”

Wu-cuti – noun, kitchen. Derived from Wu (women’s work) and Cuti (stove or oven)

Shavano Poets meets monthly in Salida. We take turns coming up with creative assignments. There is always the option to write whatever kind of poem you want to write!  It will be interesting to see what other people did with this assignment.

Buena Vista has one of the quaintest bookstores you can imagine: The Book Nook. It’s a venue for mostly used books, but also some new ones, plus an active book ordering service and all kinds of hand-made gifts. I like to order books from The Book Nook as much as possible. (They carry books by local authors, including my two books: I’ll Be There to Write the Story, a memoir; and What’s Left, a poetry book.)  The owners, Kathy and Owen Lentz, are equally keen about arts and crafts and intelligent gifts for children. They also are fans of “folk art,” which brings us to the niche Jim and I have found to display our wall masks.

The Book Nook has recently expanded into a renovated barn behind the main store. Here’s a picture of this structure, which has some historic roots. It’s simply a matter of walking through the main store at 127 South San Juan, out the back door and across the patio. You’re in another land.




In early July, the Lentzes finished the project of emptying it out, having new drywall installed, new paint, new heating system for the winter, new book shelving and then re-filling the barn with a delicious array of books and a cozy reading area:



Jim and I were invited to display our folk art masks on two pristine white walls.



We have both been making masks for almost 30 years. Nowadays Jim is the consistent mask-maker. These pieces are made of stoneware clay and can live inside or outdoors.  This one of Jim’s is a “wrap-around” mask that would be happy on a post or a tree, but can also hang on a flat wall.



My mask, “Creatrix” was inspired by my idea of a creator goddess. As she imagines each piece of creation, it comes into form out of her mind’s eye and spins into the universe — worlds, animals, and all of physical matter.



If you’re familiar with The Book Nook, be sure to visit the renovated Barn. It’s a treat. And while you’re there, check out the masks!


On our 30th wedding anniversary, July 7, Jim and I went to the Denver Botanic Gardens to see Dale Chihuly’s glass installation. The doors open at 9:00 am and we arrived at 9:30. The place was already crowded and the outdoor temperature reached 98 degrees by the time we left. Nevertheless we stayed three hours and had lunch in the cafe on-site.

There are 14 different installation areas, outdoors and indoors,  in brilliant colors. The “Red Reeds” can be found in the western part of the gardens, contrasting with the tall green native plains grass.




We were stunned by the beauty of this “Blue and Purple Boat & Walla Wallas”  floating in the Ornamental Japanese garden’s pool. Walla Wallas are the floating glass balls.




A second boat, labeled “Float Boat” was reflected in the Monet Pool:



At the entrance to the exhibit stands the “Blue Icicle Towers.” A Botanic Gardens employee was cleaning each icicle with glass cleaner. She said some exhibits must be cleaned daily while others are cleaned every 3 or 4 days.



At the east end of the gardens is the Perennial Fiori collection. Among them, this stunning white exhibit against a black background and waterfall:



Dale Chihuly uses a team approach for glass blowing. He himself can no longer blow the glass due to an accident that took one of his eyes. He designs everything and directs the production to a team of artists at his studio in the state of Washington.  If you live in central Colorado, I hope you can make it to Denver to see this exhibit. Chihuly is a world renowned artist. His work can also be found at the Fine Arts Center in Colorado Springs. The exhibit will be at the Gardens through November 30, 2014. The gardens remain open until 9:00 pm and these exhibits are lit in the evening. I hope to return when the days are shorter and view it again under the spell of electrification.


July 7, 1984 was the day Jim and I tied the knot at the Hiwan Homestead Museum in Evergreen Colorado. The picture below shows the Hiwan Homestead, built in the late 1800s by a Scottish carpenter, Jock Spence, and inhabited by one of  Colorado’s first women doctors, Josepha Douglas and her Episcopal priest husband, Charles Winfred Douglas.




A tiny chapel was built into the homestead for the use of  the priest.  It has been used regularly as a wedding chapel. We were married there by a Presbyterian minister I had come to know through river rafting. He ran a rafting program called the Presbyterian River Rats! Everyone at our wedding wore blue jeans and brought picnic food to share. Music was played on the little pump organ pictured to the right of the window.



We held our wedding reception picnic in the Heritage Park on the grounds of the museum. Below is a picture of the park. Jim and I also sold pottery in several summer craft fairs in this same park, which looked then just like depicted below.




On Sunday July 6, three days ago,  we went to Denver to celebrate our 30th  in a small, quiet way. We stayed in a LaQuinta inn and went to dinner at Namaste, a lovely Indian restaurant near Hwy 285 and Wadsworth Blvd.  We turned in early, enjoying the room with not a care in the world.  That is . . . until at 3:00 AM when the fire alarm went off. I stuck my nose out the door, didn’t smell smoke. Lights were flashing. People were rustling around. One woman ran down the hallway with her purse. Others casually meandered out.  Jim was still buried under the covers. I said, “I think we’d better get out of here.” I put on my robe, jacket and shoes and was prodding my husband, who was certain there was no reason to budge. I wasn’t going to leave him there in bed and I was ready to find out what in the heck was happening. He got himself fully dressed in about two minutes. Not a happy camper. We exited out the back and walked around the building to the front lobby. One person was wrapped in a sheet. Most were wearing their street clothes or some form of jammies. By the time we arrived in the lobby, one fire truck was just leaving. The second was still parked out front. The night desk clerk, completely flustered, said someone on the 2nd floor had intentionally set off the alarm. We never found out more about that–who, why, and the consequences. All I know is that two very tall firemen, fully outfitted in their gear, ready to extinguish fire and save lives,  were standing in the hall, clearly disgusted–a sobering sight. We walked the long hall back to our room on the first floor, glad it had been a false alarm. Sleep didn’t come. My brain was spinning scenarios of what could have been or what might yet be with a crazy nut still lurking on the 2nd floor.

Upon check out, a management type was on the front desk with a bright face. As I asked for a receipt and turned over our room keys, he noted that we were “Returns” clientele. Yes, I said that this is where we always stay when we need a motel in Denver. He asked if I’d like a discounted rate on our NEXT visit, and I said yes. We will return. But our 30th anniversary will be one we won’t forget.


Yesterday, July 3, was the culmination (well almost) of a project that was conceived last year when we changed homeowners’ insurance companies. The new insurance agent looked over our property and said, “You guys need a handrail on those steps coming off of your deck.”  We digested that for a while, thinking that since it’s a log home, we would need a log railing and if we’re going to have a hand rail, it’s going to look silly sitting there all alone — a big post above on the deck with a big post below on the ground and one log railing between the two. I had the brilliant idea that we could install railing around the perimeter, thereby making the required log hand rail look right at home.

Jim set about trying to find someone to make this contraption. We discovered that no one in our valley makes rails anymore, except maybe the one log home builder company and they are in the midst of building two new homes, and it could be a year until we could get our railing. Jim then contacted TJ’s Wood Products in Bailey, Colorado, about a two hour’s drive from here. They build log homes and make railing. Jim made a drawing for them with the required measurements. (But understand, he’s not a log construction expert). Two weeks later we drove over to TJ’s to pick up the material:




(An aside: Please notice the clear blue Colorado sky in these photos. There were no forest fires burning in our state toward the end of June, which is not the case today–July 4.)

TJ’s would have charged us $350 to deliver the materials, so Jim said he would pick up everything in our Ford truck. Each of the 8 posts weighed 80 pounds. And then there were heavy rails. Somehow we managed to squeeze all the pieces into the truck bed. We were on pins and needles traveling home in a stream of traffic with this heavy load.



Jim had called several people who were possibilities for installing our deck rails. None was available. Then a minor miracle occurred. We found our guy right in the neighborhood. He was working on a neighbor’s building project. Dennis said he’d come over and look at what we wanted and he thought he could squeeze it in between other projects. This is Dennis on Day 3–the final day. He had a long history of construction and had built many log houses and railings. Since the pieces we had purchased from TJ’s Wood Products didn’t fit exactly the way they needed to (because Jim didn’t measure the way a knowledgeable log builder would have) Dennis had to make a lot of adjustments.



He finished up yesterday and even rebuilt the stair steps leading up to our house. Here’s the new look for our front deck showing the hand rail required by our insurance agent.



And here’s a picture of how the deck looks from the driveway:



We will caulk the log posts that have splits and cracks. Those are normal for pine logs. Then we’ll stain everything a darker shade to match or blend better with the rest of the house. The upstairs deck with rails and posts directly above the lower deck also needs replacing. That will be a project for later this year.

Here’s a recent cycle of creativity.

First the inspiration. Easy to find where we live. Trees and mountains everywhere.



Then the design. Jim throws five plates with inscribed circles and gives me to design. I’ve not done this in a long time. But, heck, this is fun. I draw in the damp clay with a pencil. After the plates are dry, they go into the bisque firing. When that is done, the arduous work is next. I “paint” each design with glaze. It takes me a couple of hours to do one. Each section must be covered with wax as I work to protect it from spills of other glaze colors. All the “trenches” between color sections must be kept clean–reamed out with a small tool and filled with wax.

Here’s the “Before.”



And here’s the “After.”  That is, after the plate is fired to 2300 degrees.



More inspiration: Blue Flag Irises in Twin Lakes, Colorado.




The rest of the project. The last step before firing is to pour a glaze around the rim of each plate. This time I used Lapis Blue for some plates and Blue Green Matt for two others.



The finished plate depicting the Wild Blue Flag Irises . . .



. . .comes out of a successful firing. We unstacked this  kiln load on June 29.



I delivered one “picture plate” and a lot of other pieces to High Country Treasures in Frisco, Colorado, today, July 2. They were needed before the 4th of July and we made it by the skin of our teeth.



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