Weekly photo challenge: Extra



Extra sky. Extra color. Extra lights on the buildings in the Providence skyline. I don’t seem to notice the sky as much out here, unless I’m at the ocean. Last night’s sky was especially beautiful and it took a long time to reach its most saturated point. I was driving, and I worried that the glow would be gone by the time I got to the overlook on the East Bay bike path on Narragansett Bay. But it waited for me.

Racing the Storm

                                              Jagged rage flicks overhead,
grumbles in primeval throat.
                                              Maddened cloaks of sea green
                                                         shroud tunnels of tall corn.
                                             Truck headlights skitter over
splintered cottonwood sentries.
You look back at rosy sunset,

then grind clutch,
spit gravel.

I wrote this short poem awhile ago, and it appeared in a lit magazine called Sliver of Stone, which is produced by students in the creative writing program at Florida International University in Miami, Florida.

At this time of year, I remember how quickly the clouds could turn that sickly shade of pea green in Iowa. How the wind would come up and then it got real still, and then how the hail would come down. And how my mother would stand outside and watch the sky as it bubbled and churned, especially if my father was still out working in the field.



Weekly Photo Challenge: Split-second story


The longer she kept walking forward, the less often she looked back. The less often she wanted to turn around. The less often she waited to see if anyone was coming up behind her. She liked the sound her sneakers made on the gravel roadway. She could hear a river running far below. She could see the morning steam rising off the hillside. She knew wherever the road led would be fine because she’d never been there before.

An exercise in sanity

This is a prompt of Julia Cameron’s (Artist’s Way) — and maybe there are others out there who might benefit from trying it.


Right now.

Drama in our lives often keeps us from putting drama on the page. Some drama happens and we lose our sense of scale in our emotional landscape. When this happens, we need to reconnect to our emotional through line. We need a sense of our “before, during and after” life. This tool is a personal antidote for too much drama.

Set aside one half hour. Settle yourself comfortably. Number from one to a hundred. Now list one hundred things you, personally, love.


I’ll start with the easiest thing for me — food.

1. Mushrooms

2. Tomatoes

3. Peas in the pod

4. Scallops

5. Roasted chicken with crunchy skin

6. Making Thanksgiving dinner

7. Dark chocolate

8. My morning coffee

9. Christmas songs and Christmas movies — but only in the month of December

10. Listening to thunder rumble closer while in bed at night

11. The anticipation of going on a trip

12. Starting a new book I’ve been waiting to read

13. Being surprised when a movie was better than you thought it would be

14. Singing along with the radio in my car

15. Riding my bike the first time every summer

16. The smell of the ocean the first time every summer

17. The smell of Iowa’s black soil

18. The Marcus Fair

19. Class reunions

20. Old friends who still connect and new (not-so-new) friends who still connect

21. Mallory and Emily and their husbands

22. My brothers and sisters and their families

23. My parents — who are now together

24. Dancing to old songs

25. Laughing

26. Writing poetry

27. Writing for a living

28. My office at work

29. Taking photos

30. Friday afternoons

31. The color blue … mostly a periwinkle blue

32. My hoop earrings

33. Crisp white blouses

34. Sneakers

35. Jeans

36. Iowa

37. Rhode Island

38. Green grass and blue sky

39. Sand and blue sky

40. Clouds

41. Mary Oliver

42. Kurt Vonnegut (the memory of discovering his writing)

43. To Kill a Mockingbird

44. William Stafford

45. W.B. Yeats

46. Walt Whitman

47. Emily Dickinson

48. Willa Cather

49. Saskatchewan

50. Looking at old photos of my girls

51. Six Feet Under (when it was on)

52. 30-Something (when it was on)

53. The Voice

54. CBS Sunday Morning

55. Walking by myself

56. Walking and talking with someone else

57. Trying a new restaurant

58. Red wine … not too dry … malbecs, pinot noir

59. Cold, crisp white wine

60. A beautiful platter of appetizers

61. Listening to someone play the harmonica like it’s breaking my heart

62. James Taylor

63. The Eagles

64. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

65. Carole King Tapestry album

66. The Doobie Brothers

67. Red barns

68. Gravel roads

69. Our little house in South Harrison Township, New Jersey

70. The peach trees that sat beside it

71. Fresh asparagus from the garden

72. The smell of a new book

73. A sharpened pencil in my hand

74. Lilacs

75. Chocolate chip cookies baking

76. Outdoor concerts in the summer

77. The first WaterFire of the summer

78. My daughters’ weddings

79. Making plans to go to Ireland in September

80. And then Italy

81. And France

82. And the Grand Canyon

83. And Block Island … going again and again to Block Island

84. More poetry

85. Not waking to an alarm

86. Reading in bed

87. Hearing from former students

88. The poetry people in Rhode Island

89. Poetry readings

90. Dodge Poetry Festival

91. Writing a new poem

92. Reading a poem every morning before starting the day at work

93. My dad’s old slides

94. Trying something new for the first time — and liking it

95. Walking on an empty beach

96. A big sky

97. Watching the sun set over Narragansett Bay

98. A Sunday morning on the East Bay Bike Path

99. Getting a new idea for a poem

100. Playing with words until they all fit together just right.



A poem finds a home


Doing the Dishes, 1966

The farm wife filled the zinc with water so hot
it steamed. Then, plunged her hands in.

Glasses, first. Assorted sizes bought at farm auctions.
Then Melmac plates, bowls, platters,
with deep scratches and turquoise flowers.

Next, flatware, carving knives, serving spoons:
A delicate rose pattern, some with bent tines,
others with advertising on the handles.

Finally, pots and pans.
Burned bits of pork roast and fried chicken soaked,
while she washed the scarred kitchen table
where eight of us knew our place.

As they dried dishes with embroidered flour sacks,
she listened in on her daughters’ days –
jokes, bickering, small victories, jealousies.

From the kitchen window, she looked out
on a broken-down windmill, cornfields and a gravel road,
where distant trees marked neighbors’ farms.

In summer, she lingered as a breeze lifted the curtain.
In winter, as filigreed frost etched her reflection.


I was pleased to learn yesterday that this poem, which was held prisoner and in limbo for so long because of computer problems on the poetry site’s end, earned an honorable mention award in the 2013 Mississippi Valley Poetry Contest.

1st Place: “The Widd’er Woman” – Jessica Glover
2nd Place: “For wrapping trees in cellophane” – Xan Roberti
3rd Place: “Novena for the Nameless” – Kelly Lynn
Honorable Mention:
“Phoenix” – James K. Zimmerman
“Doing the Dishes, 1966” – Julia Meylor Simpson
There were also 13 finalists in the category.

The poem will appear in their print publication, Off Channel, along with the winners and the finalists in all three categories.

Thank you!

A contest for all the bloggers out there

I subscribe to a lot of blogs, and I know there a lot of wonderful people writing and posting photos and loving it. Here’s a contest just for you. I took this right from the postings that come to my email box daily. So, it you have questions, contact the website.
Eccentric Chai needs entries for its first Blog contest. It is free and for fun, but also a great opportunity to get your blog some recognition!

Entry Period: Open until January 31st (the winner will be announced on February 3rd)

To enter, send an email (no attachments please) to eccentricchai@outlook.com and answer the following questions:

Why did you create your blog?
What do you talk about on your blog?
What does your blog offer your readers?
What’s your favorite thing about blogging?

After you answer the questions, tell Eccentric Chai about one of your most popular articles and send the link.

Rules and Guidelines:
Your blog does NOT have to be a WordPress blog, however it does have to be a blog
Your blog can be about anything, whether it’s a cooking blog, a photography blog, or a Stephen King fan blog
Your blog can only have one author, and it has to, be you (guest posts are fine, but this has to be your blog)
Your email MUST contain both the answers to the questions and the link to one of your most popular articles
Your blog has to be at least a month old.
You may only enter ONE blog into the contest (for those of you who have multiple blogs)

Blogs will be judged by the following:
Writing (unless there is none)
Content/Subject matter

Send your entry to eccentricchai@outlook.com

Please use BLOG CONTEST as the subject line of your email.

The winner will be announced on Monday, February 3rd and the blog will get its own review on Eccentric Chai complete with an author bio. The winner will also be posted on Eccentric Chai’s Previous Contest Winners page with links to his/her blog. ecce

For more information, go to http://www.eccentricchai.com

Weekly photo challenge: Windows


On one of my last trips with my Dad, we visited the Bogenrief Stained Glass Studios in a reborn elementary school in a sleepy little Iowa town. The studio has had some famous clients and was working on fixing some incredible stained glass windows from the governor’s residence in Des Moines. I’ve posted some photos from this creative place before, but it was a wonderful discovery to explore in the most unlikely of places.