Welcome to My Crazy Quilt

110 West 80 St-4R, NY, NY 10024In mountain tradition, my Southern grandmother created free-flowing art that warmed her family on winter nights. She pieced scraps of twill, denim, corduroy, children’s outgrown clothes, men’s shirttails, worn-out dresses, and cotton sacking into the “memory gems” of life.

Like her, I toss aside perfection for small, unpredictably shaped patterns. This blog  is my verbal crazy quilt.The color and richness, my garden of perfect moments.

Catch my Alabama sound! Click the audio here or leap to the story of moi or a tale of southern accents.

cropped ptg Hen Party 10-31-04_peKeep scrolling or check out the categories on the sidebar: Characters, Creatives, Musings, Places, Photo Challenge, Poems, The Daily Post, and The Writing Well. Or for a quick read, visit my portfolio.

For tidbits on southern lifestyle and culture, writing, humor, and recipes, drop by the Random Storyteller Facebook Page. Please comment and share your own “good stuff.”

In the words of Elly Mae Clampett (“The Beverly Hillbillies”), come back soon!

#MotivationMonday What will you read this week?

Nothing beats reading a book about one of US history’s most voracious readers and authors: Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris

What are you reading? And why?

randomstoryteller TR quote_pe

I FORGOT!

Catherine Hamrick:

#SundayFunday Meet the English Professor at Large! One of the wisest, coolest women on the web. Crackerjack smart, witty, and fun. She’s got the scoop on the Hollywood glam golden age. Get your words’ worth here.

Originally posted on The English Professor at Large:

Elbert Hubbard,businessman, artist, writer, and philosopher of the early 1900s, wrote,”A retentive memory my be a good thing, but the ability to forget is the true token of greatness.”  A 75-year-old friend of mine recently asked, “How can we be expected to  remember everything when our minds are so packed with knowledge?”  How, indeed. I manage to remember  both these bits of wisdom when my mind totters, grappling for a word or a fact or a name I have always known. It’s a more soothing sop than senility.Besides, there are advantages to”forgetting” in my ’80s.

I can forget names of people I never wanted to know in the first place. I can forget to wash my hair often because what’s left needs the oil. I can forget about understanding teenagers because I know they will grow up to be as dumb as they think I am now. I can forget…

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coneflower sequence

Coneflowers

coneflowers spirograph

a foot outside my door–

it is no mean trick,

nature’s lavender turn;

fear of irrational numbers

bow to seed-head symmetry,

measure upon tight measure,

 Fibonacci’s weathered tune.

Twitter version! coneflowers spirograph, nature’s lavender turn, seed-head symmetry, Fibonacci’s weathered tune

The Daily Post prompt: “Lookin’ out my back door”

A Passion for Pluto

Catherine Hamrick:

Check out this story by my friend and author, T.K. Thorne. She writes historical fiction as well as nonfiction–all imaginative and meticulously researched. She recently released Angels at the Gate, a well-received novel. Check out her Goodreads page! http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3166354.T_K_Thorne Enjoy!

Originally posted on T.K. THORNE:

For ten years I have waited for TUESDAY.

A decade ago, I read about New Horizons, a planned probe launch to the strange dwarf-planet with an erratic 248-year orbit that defines the edge of our solar system and the beginning of the vast and lonely reaches of interstellar space.  A probe to Pluto!

Pluto and sun and Charon-0-11BD50C2000005DC-576_634x356 Artist conception of sun and Charon moon from Pluto https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Southern_Observatory

Ten years was a long time to wait, so I didn’t. Calling on the power of the pen, I wrote a short story about a woman, a survivor of a crash of the first manned mission to Pluto. In a bold moment, I sent the manuscript to Marc Buie, one of the mission’s experts, and he was gracious enough to take the time to edit it for accuracy. Although I have now published historical novels and non-fiction, this story became my first published piece, finding a home in Aeoff’s…

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Dragonfly

Catherine Hamrick:

Explore this new photography blog–it brings the outdoors in! Michele Walfred is a writer, social media strategist, and photographer in Lewes, Delaware.

Originally posted on Walfred Photography:

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“Whales” Become “Wells” #fridayflashback + audio!

Audio debut!

Whale HouseThe Daily Post prompt: “Advantage of Foresight”you’ve been granted the power to predict the future. The catch—each time you use your power, it costs you one day (that is, you’ll live one day less). How would you use this power, if at all?

“I am a part of all that I have met”—Tennyson. The past and present are enough. The future will take care of itself.

It’s a moment when you reach back. Far back. You can’t reason why you do it. You’re jolted though, in the same way that you jump when thunder cuts the quiet of a mountain lake, until then almost still, except for fish running slight currents and heat lightning flirting with low clouds.

“Whale.” Soft as that word is, it firecrackered in my brain this morning. Random.

Mama Hattie sternly warned us never to touch the graying, splintered “whale-house” just steps outside her kitchen. Not even 6 years old, my sister Mary and I stood many hours before its boarded-up door.  We speculated on how often Pawie changed the whale’s water and marveled that its tail did not lash the walls of rotting wood. It never slapped water through the cracks.

Sometime that mysterious creature sank below memory glimmer. Maybe in the summer I noticed that Mama Hattie’s voice crawled through words—”hit’s” for “it’s” and “yeller” for “yellow” and “aigs” for “eggs.”  And “whale” for “well.”

That summer I wrapped an egg, fresh from the chicken house, in a red bandana.  I crouched near the whale-house and clasped the egg in warming desperation. Then I knew. My chick was gone. It had never been. It had never slept, tucked inside the shell, waiting to pick that brittle wall and pop out wet.

The whale had never been.

ContourBottleConceptSketch_peNothing else changed. Pawie rocked on the gray-painted porch of the white gabled, green shuttered house, never talking but always watching for trucks headed to Atlanta. They rumbled on Highway 53, honking until he shot up his long right arm—in salute to a world bypassing his. A small braided rug hung on a side balcony, waiting for a beating.

The day dimmed. We chased fireflies on the front lawn, more like a strip of pasture, and trapped them in Coca-Cola bottles. They glowed until smothered under greenish glass.  Our faint torches of summer.

Credit:

Wood shed courtesy of Fb789, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Fb78, http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benutzer:Fb78

Thank you to my followers!

In response to The Daily Post prompt: “The Kindness of Strangers”―When was the last time a stranger did something particularly kind, generous, or selfless?

Brenda Keesal burnsthefire.com

Brenda Keesal at Burns the Fire

Blogging has changed my life―a new career direction as I negotiate the social media landscape after a career in print. Moreover, it has enriched my life with friends worldwide. The shares, comments, and likes on the Random Storyteller Facebook Fan Page  + Tweets and Retweets of blog posts are a blessing.

We all get by with help from our friends. Artist/author/ filmmaker Brenda Keesal, known to you through her blog Burns the Fire, wrote a piece in The Huffington Post recognizing eight sister-writers: “8 of My Fave Sister Blogs.” It took my breath away to be in such gifted company.

Brenda is a storyteller par excellence. Even in the shortest vignette, she captures all that it is to be human with exquisite simplicity. You feel the story in every sensorial detail.

Amalia Pedemonte at La Audacia de Aquiles

Amalia Pedemonte at La Audacia de Aquiles

Amalia Pedemonte, the marvelous blogger of mythology and art at La Audacia de Aquiles, has a tremendous following. She is a busy professional. Nonetheless, I have seen her positive comments on many sites, even those of beginning bloggers. She is genuine and thoughtful.

Like Brenda, Amalia is quite the storyteller. If you found classics dull in college, her blog will change your mind. Ancient characters, with their foibles and power, spring to life. What’s more, she delivers art and literature with ease. I again fell in love with Aristotle―because Amalia summarized his brilliance, well, brilliantly.

Both bloggers exemplify best practices in quality posts and online etiquette. Their generosity is authentic. They don’t bounce from site to site handing out “likes” just to collect followers. They care about the blogging community and set standards. I could add a long list of bloggers who fit this description.

 

A little fun! “You like me! Right now! You really, really like me!” Now, go find a new blogger to like―soon to be a new friend to love.

daylily spectacle #haiku

daylily hot spot

butterfly of speckled flares

I but an atom

daylily speckled 3

In response to The Daily Post photo challenge: “Muse”–What subject keeps you coming back? Coker Arboretum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The Pill Hill Road Sewing Club

 kitchen shower brideMy parents moved with their litter to Rockhill Road in 1961. The neighborhood was so new that red dirt covered the road and most of the lots remained wooded. An unintentional colony of doctors sprang up: six surgeons, a pathologist, an eye doctor, and a dentist—all within shouting distance. Pill Hill Road quickly became the street moniker.

Many of the families had a passel of offspring. For periodic escape, the neighborhood ladies decided to create a monthly entertainment under the guise of busywork: the sewing club, which included a luncheon followed by an afternoon of earnest gab, with a smidge of knitting, crocheting, hemming, embroidery, or crewelwork. The group included twelve women–one to host the meeting each month. There were no rules except the admonition to serve a decent spread ornamented by fresh flower arrangements, china, crystal, silver, a hefty dessert, and gallons of coffee. This gathering was not an occasion for finger sandwiches. These ladies loved substantive refreshments at their private parties. The group did not kick out anybody. The only exit was death. Only then did the sewing club usher in a new member from a pool of eager candidates (jolly come lately to the neighborhood).

Each sewing club member had a distinct personality. Mrs. L, our next-door neighbor, was a woman of cool sophistication. While my mother was in thrall to the early American look, Dr. and Mrs. L lived in a contemporary house that Frank Lloyd Wright would have happily plagiarized. One end was long and low, with a series of bedrooms brightened by large glass windows. How did that family sleep in the morning? It was a delightful mystery. The living room-dining room-kitchen end bore all the magnificence of a secular cathedral. A puzzle of dark gray flagstones—exactly like the ones in our church sanctuary—graced the sidewalk and continued into the front hall, or foyer (“foy-yea”). The ceilings soared in a wealth of spare diagonals.

The pièce de résistance was the doorbell—a rich departure from our pedestrian front-entrance “ding-DONG.” Comparatively, it was a symphony—actually, the first 16 ringtones of the Westminster chimes. Navigating Mrs. L’s sidewalk was great fun; it put a new spin on the game of “step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” That required walking like an Egyptian in a zig-zag pattern. I could have stood at Mrs. L’s front door all afternoon and punched her doorbell until it clanged in her head.

Impressionist-like paintings of brilliant florals were all the decorating rage in most homes except Mrs. L’s Grande Maison. The first image that greeted you was the framed brass rubbing of a fourteenth-century knight at the far end of the foyer. Dr. and Mrs. L wandered Great Britain creating art from engraved sepulchral memorials. The most my parents could manage was our yearly trip to North Georgia for Decoration Day at the Hinton United Methodist Church, though the holiday was quite touching in its homespun glory.

Any millennial would rejoice at the sight of Mrs. L’s clean mid-century panache. It sported the look of the Jetsons’ sky-high abode sans Rosie, the rolling automaton maid. I wanted to nap on the sleek, austere couch, sink into the Eames chair, and pop open the Atomic Age hi-fi. Best of all, Mrs. L’s living room could accommodate running room for an Arabian walkout whereas Mom’s offered space only for two steps plus a cartwheel. The paintings were yawning geometric wonders. An expansive wall of windows opened one side. It seemed Mrs. L read several books at one time—voluminous histories and cutting-edge novels that lay partway open on the furniture or carelessly stacked on side tables.

A second-story screened-in porch overlooked our backyard. Years later, Mrs. L said, “Charlie and I used to sit here for hours and watch your father bounce from plant to plant. Who needs TV?” Dr. L’s notion of gardening was to step outside with a pair of clippers and snip a few twigs while the official gardener buzzed behind him as he gestured at this or that shrub. A button-down cotton shirt, tie, cardigan, khakis, and loafers comprised Dr. L’s gardening attire. His primary labor entailed carefully ferrying a small bucket of table scraps to a tiny compost. He resembled a Kappa Alpha brother freshly starched for Rush Week.

I wanted to file adoption papers—a transfer to Dr. and Mrs. L’s spacious, gracious living.

Mrs. L spoke in the soft tones of a refined family from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I suspected she was an heiress of sorts who once had a big-city career, perhaps in New York. I fancied her a closet novelist. Several inches shorter than Mom, she maintained a trim figure, zipping out of the house in her spotless tennis dress and into her pristine gray Mercedes. I fantasized about stowing away in the leather backseat and riding far, far away. Mrs. L was all subtlety in her quiet designer clothes. Nobody in her household wore homemade dresses. Mrs. L’s only pretense to needle-and-thread activity was stitching a stray button on a shirt while she absorbed the sewing club’s gossip.

Unbeknownst to my mother, my brother Bud created a special trophy: The Pill Hill Road Sewing Club Flying Tongue Award. Once a year, he would eavesdrop long enough to select a winner. Mom always placed in the top three. Mrs. L? Dead last.

The sewing club’s finest fête involved the kitchen shower—from beaten biscuits and delicate ham slices to lemon squares. Brides celebrated the frivolity, friendship, and greatest gift haul of their lives. Would a sewing club member bestow one lonesome Revere Ware pot? Never. Many a bride walked away with several complete settings in her “everyday” or “medium” china.

Kitchen showers were serious business. Lingerie showers did not exist. In fact, I never heard of a lingerie shower until I attended such a party—and it was outside the state long after college graduation. I found it hilarious; I pictured Nannie indignantly raising an eyebrow at thong underwear and intoning, “Now why would a young lady wear a questionable piece of nylon that cuts her down there when it’s all a body can do to tolerate a girdle?”

The ladies of the sewing club were quite clever. They engineered the ultimate collective gift: “the kitchen bride.” She consisted of a mop (stringy hair), a stick torso, rolling-pin shoulders, an apron draped to fill out her figure, oven-mitt arms and hands, and a bouquet of measuring spoons and tea towels. Footless and fancy-free, she propped up in a scrub bucket. Her merry visage was a paper plate with sparkly eyes fringed with thick lashes, the slight suggestion of a turned-up nose, rosy cheeks, slightly pursed lips with upturned corners, and dimples. If the artist felt daring, she added a beauty mark.

The kitchen shower confused one of my friends, a post-doc scholar from India. On receiving her invitation, she called me, worried about breaching etiquette. She dreaded phoning the hostess to RSVP.

“I fear I must regret.”

“No worries,” I said, thinking she was self-conscious about being a vegetarian in the pork-worshiping South. “The ladies include fruits and light salads in the refreshments.”

“No, that’s not it,” she said slowly. I sensed her embarrassment. “I don’t own a blue-and-white sari, and I’m not sure I can find one in time.”

Perplexed, I urged, “You have a rainbow of lovely saris. Wear the one you like.”

“But I do not want to offend your mother’s friends,” she protested. “The invitation stipulated ‘colors: blue and white.’ I like to follow the local customs.”

Lost in translation: Catherine’s kitchen theme is blue and white.

blue canton soup bowl

* * * * *

Excerpt: Hillbilly Belle in Alabama (2016). All rights reserved.

Westminster Chimes

In the Land of Snow

midwest snow_wide_pe

Another snow fell on top of another snow. They piled up in Iowa, late November until April. The first blanket was light, soft, and clean until muddied and grayed by the roadside, where snowplows threw grit, sand, and ice in the raw morning. By mid-February, the dirty drifts packed down in rough-hewn walls no shovel could breach.

Nobody planted a seed until after Mother’s Day. In Alabama, my dad planted beans on Good Friday, following the lore of the South’s highlanders. Now I walked in the level lands.

Bleak midwinter. “Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.” It was a foreign carol, even romantic, until I took a turn in a neighbor’s winter garden but found no solace. The moon gate of graying cypress shone silver. Snow and verdigris cooled the bronze firedogs guarding each side. I unlatched the gate, a tiny click in the silence. The arbor and trellis showed their perpendicular bones. A ghostly white-barked birch stood nearby, apart. Large flakes muffled needle-thin bird tracks. Bits of deep green foliage pricked through a smothered hedge. The wind lifted and stormed the copper chimes.

On the deck at home, snow had layered inch by inch on the seats of Nannie’s ice-cream chairs that surrounded a diminutive 1940s iron table. Its fishnet-mesh tabletop had long disappeared. The wind sculpted the forms until they were fat and round—like my grandmother’s bridge partners. I fancied the ladies when rays of moonlight fell on an otherwise darkened stage.

A plump player sat to the far left—the indomitable Thelma with a proud bosom, like a ship’s prow. She dozed until Nannie deeply scolded, “Thelma, play a spade!” The woman started, harrumphed, and carelessly threw down a flimsy card. Nannie huffed. Thelma nodded off.

The rising wind carried their voices into the night. Then all fell still.

Excerpt from Hillbilly Belle in Alabama (2016). All rights reserved.

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