SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015 #12 – EARLY

SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015 #12 – EARLY

Wednesday – July 1, 2015

It’s Frisbee Wednesday again. The world has turned. Springtime ended. It’s summer! If you are anywhere in the northern hemisphere, you are no doubt feeling the pressure to have fun. To leap out of bed to greet the sun. Romp on the beach. Burn meat on a grill. Drive a thousand miles. Climb a mountain.

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Do something. Earn some bragging rights before it’s too late. Don’t forget the camera.

GOOD MORNING, SUNSHINE

I have an ambivalent relationship with “early.”

I love sunrise. First light. The glistening of light on leaf and grass. The glow of dawn. A flight of birds across a pristine beach.

DawnFlight-300B-72

I would merely prefer that it happen later. Like around ten. After I’ve had a chance to have some coffee, catch my breath. Focus my eyes.

Did you know you can say “good morning” to your computer and it will say “good morning” in return? You can do it and it’s easier than you think. Most newer computers and tablets (and telephones) will happily burble to you any old time of day. I have carefully avoided activating any computer voices.

I can barely bring myself to be polite to the dogs in the morning. They are wildly enthusiastic, but know better than to bark at me. The stand in the kitchen doorway huffing, puffing, wagging, and dancing. In silence. Because a biscuit is coming, a biscuit is coming. Unless they bark at mom. If they are noisy, mom will put her four-footed pals outside until she gets her cup of coffee.

To have my computer jabbering at me would put me over the edge.

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I can prevent my computers from babbling, but there’s nothing I can do about the birds. Birdsong is beautiful (sometimes). Under the right circumstances. The problem is that birds sing at ungodly hours. In particular, the little Carolina Wren who has taken up residence in our back forty.

He sings so piercingly loud and so early, it wakes me out of a dead sleep.

“What? What?” I cry, but it is only the bird. Such a little bird. Such a big voice. What an amazing decibel level!

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I’m proud of these pictures because these wrens have a serious case of ADD. They are never still for more than a nanosecond, so getting a picture of one represents a personal best.

CALL OF THE WILD

When I was a kid, my bedroom adjoined the roof of the “playroom” on the ground floor. It was right next to my window. A broad expanse of nearly flat asphalt tiles, it became — for reasons I’m sure someone could explain, but no one ever has  — the battlefield of an ongoing territorial dispute between the crows and the squirrels.

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They bickered and quarreled at the top of their obnoxious voices. They didn’t care it was not their property. Nor did it actually matter who (if anyone) won the battle.

It was a bloodless war, characterized by sound and fury. Signifying nothing. Every morning, year round, the grey squirrels and the black fish crows went claw to foot for domination of my roof.

Chattering and squawking, they would start before dawn and continue until I found myself pounding my tiny fists on the glass and screaming ‘GO AWAY, GO AWAY.’

They never quit. My mother was unsympathetic, though nothing would get her out of bed before mid morning.

Even coffee couldn’t make her cheerful in the morning. It merely woke her up. Jumpy and grumpy. Not a morning person. It seems I have become remarkably like her in ways I never expected.

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Now, though, I keep a camera — sometimes several — on my jewelry chest near the accessible window in the bathroom. When my body tells me to get up, I can turn a necessity into an opportunity by snapping sunrise and early bird photographs. Then, I pull the shade down and climb back into bed.

Sunrise Strider

I hardly break my sleep rhythm. Until the phone rings …

RIDING SHOTGUN THROUGH LIFE – SHARING MY WORLD

SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2015 WEEK #26

In a car would you rather drive or be a passenger?

For many years, I would have rather driven, but these days, I’m perfectly happy to ride shotgun. And navigate. I can read a map, an all but forgotten art form which enables one to correlate one’s position in the real world with a virtual location on a piece of paper.

The road and an atlas

The road and an atlas

Oddly enough, this primitive system works very well and the paper map rarely routes me into weird back roads to bridges that have long since collapsed.

If you were handed free opera tickets, would you go or sell them? Why?

It would depend on the opera. I’m not a big opera fan, but there are some I like better than others … and I might go just for the architecture. They have restored Boston’s historic opera house and I wouldn’t mind a visit.

Describe your own outlook on life in seven words or less. (NOTE:  does not necessarily have to be a sentence.)

Life is unpredictable. Eat dessert first.

Which would you prefer:  a wild, turbulent life filled with joy, sorrow, passion, and adventure–intoxicating successes and stunning setbacks; or a contented bordering on happy, secure, predictable life surrounded by friends and family without such wide swings of fortune and mood?

I’m sure there is a middle ground between those extremes. I’ll take the option that gives me a reasonably peaceful life with enough adventure to build up happy memories, funny anecdotes, and interesting experiences.

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Because it’s hard to write about life and the world if you’ve never gone anywhere or done anything. Also, there are only so many photographs you can take in your kitchen.

 

THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS – REDUX, REDUX, REDUX

Israel was in turmoil. Years of bad blood between Arabs and Jews, a disastrous  economic situation and an intense heat wave which had everyone cranky and ill-tempered. It’s no wonder that most riots take place in the heat of summer.

The predominantly Arab areas were seething with resentment while the Jewish population was none too happy either. It was a rough patch, but when had it been otherwise?

Jerusalem’s diversity is part of what make the city unique. The Jewish population is highly diverse. From secular and downright anti-religious, to ultra-Orthodox and everything in between. There are Christians of every stripe and every flavor of Islam. Bahai, Samaritans — and sects I never heard and more than a few wannabe Messiahs.

I sang along with the Muzein when he called the faithful to prayer. I loved the chanting, the traditions, the clothing, the open air markets. I loved everything and everyone, but not everyone loved me back.

The newspaper I was running was broke. We’d been going on fumes for the last few issues and it was obvious we’d be out of business and out of work very soon. We kept hoping for an angel, someone to come along and invest enough to get us well and truly launched. In the meantime, it had been weeks since we’d gotten paid.

I was doing my share, trying to keep the newspaper alive, so when someone had to take the pages to the typesetter in Givat Zeev up by Ramallah, I volunteered. I had a car. I’d been there before. Why not?

There’s a myth that Jerusalem has just one road, but it winds a lot. The theory is, if you keep driving, sooner or later you’ll get there, wherever “there” is. That’s not quite accurate. You may get close — but when I’m the navigator close may not be close enough. I have no sense of direction. When I hear the words “You can’t miss it,” I know I will miss it.

Which is how I wound up in downtown Ramallah in the middle of a minor riot in late August 1983. I didn’t know what was happening or why (exactly), but I was sure I shouldn’t be there.

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I was lost. No idea how to retrace my steps and get back to French Hill. Going forward wasn’t an option. I pulled to the curb and sat there, wondering what to do next.

A few moments later, two Arab gentlemen jumped into the car with me. No, I hadn’t locked the doors. If they wanted to break into my car, they might as well use the doors as break the windows. Was I about to be murdered? Abducted?

“You are lost,” the man in the front seat said.

“Oh, very much,” I agreed. The two men conferred in Arabic. I picked out a couple of words, one of them being “American.” That’s easy. It’s the same in almost every language.

“Okay,” said the man in the front seat. “You need to leave. Now.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” I responded. We swapped places. He took the wheel and drove me back to French Hill.

“You must be more careful,” he chided me. “You must not go to dangerous places.” I thanked him with all my heart. He smiled, and the two of them headed back, on foot, to Ramallah. Offering them a lift didn’t seem the thing to do.

As a final note, their act of kindness was a genuine act of bravery. They could have come to real harm for their generosity which some would have regarded as lack of loyalty to whatever the current cause is/was. They were under no obligation to help me. But they did, at considerable risk to themselves.

And act of kindness by strangers. I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

For the Daily Prompt. Again. How many times have I responded to this one? Are we up to a dozen yet?

BETTE STEVENS – DOG BONE SOUP – AN INDIE BOOK REVIEW

IN HONOR OF INDIE AUTHOR’S DAY!

DOG BONE SOUP is the long-awaited “rest of the story”of Shawn Daniels from the original short story, “Pure Trash.” It’s particularly long-awaited for me because as soon as I read the short story, I wanted to read this book. The only problem was, Bette hadn’t yet written it.

But she did it. Dog Bone Soup is available for your reading pleasure. And what a pleasure it is.

Bette has the purest, freshest writing style I’ve read in many a long year. Reading her prose is like peering into an exceptionally clear, deep pool. It looks like the bottom is close enough to touch, but those waters run deep.

Bette Stevens is a class act, an author who knows how to tell a story. Her characters are real, so true to life, they practically leap off the page. In Dog Bone Soup, style and the story are blended to perfection.

dog bone soup collage

I’ve read a lot of books about rural poverty and for some reason, all those stories are set in the south. This is as far from south as you can get. It’s a timely and important reminder that poverty is not a regional issue.

Poverty is everywhere, from the biggest cities to the hidden hamlets where tourists never go. Children pay the highest price.

Shawn Daniels’ story is wonderful. It’s about growing up and coming of age for a poor kid from a dysfunctional family. His world is cold and hardscrabble. A drunken father, a vanishing mother. Foster parents with no love to share, teachers who can’t see past patches and frayed cuffs. Yet somehow Shawn forges a road of his own. Armed with courage, intelligence, humor, and grit, he grows into a strong young man with solid values. He creates his own future.

Sometimes, very little can be enough.

There’s nothing depressing about this story. How come? Because Shawn Daniels hasn’t a shred of self-pity in him. Despite the challenges he faces, Shawn is never down. Not depressed, discouraged, broken, or beaten. This kid has grit. Determination and a solid grip on his own worth.

Where does it come from? Mom, sometimes. A few others who see Shawn’s value and give him a hand along his path. A personal, hard-wired toughness that lets him see past the life he is living it to the life he wants — and for which he is willing to work. Mostly, it is Shawn’s own sharp intelligence which enables him to understand his world. It lets him trust his judgment without bogging down in unearned guilt. He makes smart decisions.

It’s a great story — and it’s far from over.

About the author

BAS Author logo stamp 2015Inspired by nature and human nature, author Bette A. Stevens is a retired elementary and middle school teacher, a wife, mother of two and grandmother of five. Stevens lives in Central Maine with her husband on their 37-acre farmstead where she enjoys writing, gardening, walking and reveling in the beauty of nature. She advocates for children and families, for childhood literacy and for the conservation of monarch butterflies (milkweed is the only plant that monarch caterpillars will eat).

Bette A. Stevens is the author of award-winning picture book AMAZING MATILDA; home/school resource, The Tangram Zoo and Word Puzzles Too!; and PURE TRASH, the short story prequel to DOG BONE SOUP.