Tag Archives: Epiphanies

But Night Crawler is so much more Evocative

Our yard in May contains the world. Wisconsin teems with life. For many of us living in climates where the temperatures are at or below freezing for so many months of the year, this is a heady experience. One day you’re wearing your jacket and mittens and looking at everything brown and gray, and almost like Dorothy’s arrival in Munchkinland, the next moment goes blindingly Technicolor.

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A Few Minutes Ago…

It is grass that melting snow washes to emerald green. Tiny lime-colored leaves on black branches. Tulips, orange, and pink, and red. Daffodils, deep yellow and apricot. Lilacs, deep purple, lavender, and white.

FallWinter2015Mostly 010

Munchkinland

Robin’s breast russet, and then those impossibly lovely blue shells their babies shed in unexpected places. I find one on the metal chair on the front deck. Cardinals, still here, looking tropical now, the crimson against the green. Red-winged black birds. White herons. Orioles, as orange as the fruit we feed them.

The sky at day, a brilliant blue, at night diamonds and velvet.

 

My husband calls me out to the yard.
“You have to see this.”
It’s dark and slightly cool. Wet.

“Look.”
He shines a flashlight across the lawn, catching the quiet, clandestine movements of thousands of earthworms.
They are everywhere. The lawn is undulating like the surface of a lake. I’m afraid I’ll hurt them.

He bids me come. “Step slowly. Lightly.”

I’m sure I shouldn’t be out like this, could never tread lightly enough. I say a quick prayer. “Please don’t let me do any harm.”

We stand together watching the glistening movement as the worms slide back into the ground. Everywhere the light hits them, they move. We talk about what they are doing. We’ve never learned.

I suspect they come up out the earth and the rich dark loom to gulp in the sweet, sweet air. My husband suspects it’s for sex.

We know very little about the life of worms. Such a common thing to know so little about. We feel silly, and are sure these must be things our parents were born knowing. Like the call of a mockingbird.

Then, a voice inside me says, Thibookworm-151738__180s is why they’re called night crawlers, Lori. And I know I am a complete dolt. How could this simple fact have escaped my attention all these years? Though it’s no excuse, night crawlers is not a term I ever remember being used in my family. Just earthworms, or simply worms. We didn’t fish, and we didn’t garden much. Out of sight, out of mind.

But “Night crawlers” is so much more evocative. Briefly, I picture little worm-sized, worm-shaped zombies crawling out of tiny worm-graves, marked by little crosses and a mausoleum or two—“Here lies Squirmy, Beloved Father and Husband”—our entire lawn a movie set for a new Tim Burton story.

graveimage                   How could I miss this?

“They’re good for the garden,” I say. (We’ve just planted tomatoes, peas, beets, onions, peppers, lettuce, and broccoli.)
“Yes.”
As we walk back to the house, I think, “And fireflies will be next.”

 

Rachel “Lori” Pohlman, Copyright 2016

*For some interesting facts on worms, such as the fact that, yes, there is some sex involved in night crawling (but that’s not all they do), go to: http://blog.nwf.org/2014/02/ten-things-to-know-about-earthworms/.

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Filed under Humor, Nature, Night Crawlers, Seasons, Uncategorized, Wisconsin, Worms, Writing

Fireside Chats in Springtime

 

Early Spring 2015 048

Silly me. I had this idea to write a WWII-era literary fiction novel a while back. Quite a while back.

I spent a lot of time researching in between writing scenes. I felt I had a decent grasp on the time period; my dad was a WWII marine—I grew up waking to The Marine Corps Hymn–and though I majored in English, not history, I spent a good deal of time learning about and teaching the Holocaust to my eighth-grade classes when I taught The Diary of Anne Frank. I even wrote a YA novel about a Polish boy falling in love in war-torn Poland for my Master’s thesis in creative writing.

I’d just need to check a few dates here and there, maybe read a few more books and immerse myself in the movies and music of the 1940s, and presto! I’d be good.

Not so true.

What is true is that old saying about “the more you learn, the more you realize how much you don’t know.” Today’s epiphany: Go Deeper. I stumbled into going deeper today almost by accident. I was looking up a few Roosevelt quotes for a scene in my manuscript where my protagonist listens to the president on the radio. Just a few lines, you know, to add realism and texture to the scene.

                                                                                                Paris to home 2013 033   GO DEEPER

And I find myself, hours later, too torn up to write the scene. I’ll write it tomorrow, or maybe the next day. You see, I found recordings of Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking to the American public. I listened to them. Then I found recordings of the broadcasts made by the journalists who had followed him throughout his long presidency talking about him on the day of his death.

These recordings are priceless. You will need Kleenex. And maybe a dog. Or a loved one nearby. Luckily, my protagonist has a hankie, a dog, and a brother.

Fireside Chat           (Not my photo)                 Silly me? Yes. But also grateful me.

If you haven’t done so, and you’re interested, go to http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/archives/collections/utterancesfdr.html to get started.

Three dates you might be interested in:

January 11, 1944: Radio Address to the Nation- State of the Union message to Congress (30 min.)

November 2, 1944: Campaign radio speech from the White House—“The World is Rising” (15 min.)

December 24, 1944: Christmas Eve Address (5 mins.) Make sure to stay tuned for The National Anthem that immediately follows.

Rachel “Lori” Pohlman, Copyright2016

 

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Filed under Fireside Chats, HIstorical Fiction, Literary Fiction, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Radio, Research, Uncategorized, World War II, Writing

Tatonka!

My computer screen scrolls my pictures. I’m sure many of yours do, too. Today, after my first full week (which was only 4 days long!) of work teaching high schoolers to become legal Wisconsin drivers, I came home to an empty house and decided to celebrate with music and a little bit of wine and writing. To be honest, my house is never empty, because I have dogs. They are not tatonkas, but they are furry and large (considering the extent of my downsized cottage).

I’m thinking of tatonkas because of this picture.tatonka!

The tatonkas pictured here are not real bison, of course. We are just three friends pretending to be tatonkas at a wonderful country western eatery and music venue located in downtown Chicago. It’s the picture that came up first when I turned my laptop on tonight. Sometimes a thousand words can be useful to describe a picture.

People who know me well know that I am a big fan of wolves—that I have aligned myself with the Defenders of Wildlife for many years, in part because of the hard work they do to protect wolves. Wolves, you may be thinking, are not tatonkas.

True. But everything is connected.

In the beginning of this story, there is a girl laying in the back seat of a 1972 Oldsmobile reading a book. It is a hot summer day and the car has stopped somewhere in South Dakota because the driver, my dad, and the copilot, my brother Billy, have come across a herd of buffalo. “Sis! Sis! Put down that book and get out here and look,” Billy says. “Bison!”

The girl, me, barely looks up. “What’s the big dif?” she asks. “Big cows.” (To be fair to the girl in the backseat, she has spent the bulk of her childhood reading because…well, there are all sorts of both good and sad reasons for that…and she has been living in the Midwest, a land that is loaded with large four-legged bovine creatures…she just doesn’t see the “big dif.” She is young.)

Fifty years later, she is still reminded of her disdain for the tatonka herd. And she is sorry.

Little did she know that the camping trips of her youth would have such an impact on her future world view. As she matured, the girl learned that such sights were akin to great magic. In 1990, when she saw Dances With Wolves for the first time, she was shaken to a degree that can only be described as cataclysmic. Tears. Yes. Weeping. Yes. Regret?

That, too.

Tatonka! If you’ve seen the movie, you are picturing the lovely faces of Kevin Costner and Graham Greene as they connect over the Native American word for buffalo. Just as she did. Finally.

And she began learning more about endangered animals, and history, and love… Eventually, she became a teacher. And eventually, she became a better sister. But never good enough. She bought Billy a beautiful sculpted bison one year for his birthday. She understood that her father had taken her to the wild and free places to observe and to appreciate the creatures of the world. And that her brother had always understood.

More years passed and the girl invited her brother and husband and dear friend to her graduation ceremony at a small college in Washington State. And what did these people see while driving to Goddard College in Port Townsend, WA? A herd of tatonkas, majestic in the green, green grass.

The girl’s brother, Billy, is gone now. Her father, too. But the wolves, and the tatonkas, even more strongly, are making a comeback. So we continue to celebrate and play tatonka when the time is right. The girl stops to catch her breath when she reads a story or sees a picture that reminds her of the great struggle every living creature makes, and must continue to make, to remain. To be remembered, revered, and yes, loved.

All creatures, great and small. All creatures.

Mahalo.bedtimesundanceGood Night.

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Filed under Buffalo, Camping, Dances With Wolves, Nature, Work, Writing

Yoga Epiphanies and Full-Time Fiction, February 24, 2015

Owl Bar SundanceThursday or Friday, if you’ve been following me, are usually my Pub Fiction Nights. On these nights I set myself up in a pub and inconspicuously suck in and record the atmosphere. I know. Poor me. Lest you become too jealous, let me give you a bit of background.

I suck (and not just atmosphere).

Ok, that’s a little harsh. I don’t always suck. What I mean is, even though I am a writer at heart, since my earliest memories I have both known and simultaneously rejected the dream. Being a writer, right. From my perspective, I might just as well have wanted to be an astronaut or a movie star.

And I needed to earn a living. I always tended to let inconsequential things like paying the rent or buying groceries come in between me and my dream of being a full-time writer. Fine. Didn’t have a trust fund. Not many people do.

But here’s the thing. I am not getting any younger. And even during all of those years of working at not being a full-time writer, guess what? I wrote. I wrote two novels in fact while working full-time, and that doesn’t suck at all—but even so, I never felt like a real writer. I sent each of those novels out a few times, particularly the second one, but mostly I just kept them in a drawer and went on with my “real” life.

And then, and then… after a year coming to grips with my own mortality through cancer and two incredible decades of teaching eighth graders, I reached an age, that certain age, where I had a bit of money invested in retirement, and was able to say, “Time to go.” The plan was, I’d meet up with my husband across the country where he’d started a new job. I would live the literary life. Get those books published. Write more books. Really be a Full Time Writer!

Only I haven’t been writing full-time…more like some-time, between the avoiding-writing-times.

Tuesday is my Yoga night. During Corpse Pose it came to me. Yes, during that time when your mind is supposed to be completely relaxed and clear of all thoughts. That’s when I had my Ah Ha! Moment. My realization is this: My problem is not that I can’t write regularly and with complete commitment because I need to pay for my new partial dentures or that I have to be employed in order to feel valuable. Nor is it because the kitchen and bathroom floors are torn up indefinitely while my husband struggles to correct major and unexpected structural issues that we can’t afford to pay a contractor to fix. All of these things are distractions, true, but they aren’t such big obstacles to writing, not really.

Here’s my problem:  I need someone to report to, to produce for; otherwise, I will dilly-dally around with this new novel for years. That’s what I mean by “I suck.” For the first time in my life I have the time to write, yet I spend more time looking for a new job than I do writing—all kinds of ridiculous jobs—anything to distract me for a day or two or ten until I either get an outright rejection or I just never hear back so my excitement fizzles. Ho-hum, guess I’ll write a sentence or two on the novel then since I didn’t get that mad scientist job…

I am a teacher, and I love lessons! Bingo! I applied for a job recently that required I complete an assigned task. I was thrilled the entire time I was working on that assignment, couldn’t wait to get it turned in. I didn’t get the job, but I learned a valuable lesson about myself. I work best when I work for someone other than me.

When I taught language arts the biggest thrill was in the relationships, and sharing of knowledge. I wasn’t writing lessons in a vacuum, they were written in the classroom, constantly changing, adjusting to the needs and moods of the students and the days—the lessons needed to breathe to be compelling. So it is with my writing.

So I’m going back to the classroom, in a way, investing in my own education once again. There are many courses I want to take through the University of Wisconsin, Madison Continuing Studies Writing Program, but I’ll choose one for now. I hope to begin soon. It will force me to focus. This is not to say that I won’t become gainfully employed one of these days; if the right offer comes along, I’ll take it! But whether I work outside the home again or not, one thing is for certain, I will be writing, full-time. Early Winter 2014 to 15 047

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Filed under Writing Advice