Monday, August 27, 2012

Mists of water fall
and fall. No damp squirrel, no
bird, no elm leaf stirs.
Elm leaves and their lean
branches droop, pulled down
by a weight of rain.
In silhouette, sparse
leaves and lean branches etch themselves
against wet grey sky.

a cycle of three haiku

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Self-Portrait of the Artist in a "Dark Matter Mirror"

Self-Portrait of the Artist in a "Dark Matter Mirror," for Andrea.  (by me, Mary stebbins Taitt). I haven't had a Moleskine sketchbook from the exchange in a long time. I've been filling in some of the old Moleskines (may post some of them later), and I also bought two strange nonMoleskine sketchbooks. This one I got at our local Renaissance Festival hand made paper and cover, leather. The piece is done on the inside of the front cover on the leaver with markers.  The leather is very rough and stained with droplets of leather stain from the outside of the front cover.

The outer red, yellow and orange circle represents the persona I present to the world--sunny and pleasant.  The inner circle represents my hidden dark thoughts and feelings, my anger, rage, pain, shame etc.  The rays are the love I give out to the world and the snakes are the anger, rage, pain and shame that escape from their internal prison and cause hurt feelings and misunderstandings.  They also represent the chaos that underlies and spills out of the "safely" imprisoned negative qualities.

This book is too big to fit on my scanner (what was I thinking?) and the leather is thick, sturdy and doesn't lie flat, so I apologize for the quality of the photo.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Poem: Patty Heart on Cadillac Mt. With new illo

Deer at the Side of the Road
by me, digital composite
click image to view larger

Patty Hearst Dreams of Persephone Lost On Cadillac Mountain

A highway runs through your dream.  Big semis, Harleys
rumble.  Hell's Angel Harleys, and a little platoon
of matching yellow cars.  They flit through the semis,
a flock of goldfinches, a school of fish. 

You spot a deer standing at the edge
of the road and know it is about to die.  It will be thrown
over the hood of a red car that will careen into the side
of an SUV and they will roll into the ditch at your feet.
Crumpled.  You want to wave your arms to head off the deer,
but your arms are timbers from the mast of a ship.
The ship founders on rocks.  Fog. You know now
you're dreaming because you wouldn't mix metaphors
awake.  You're trapped in the dream, surrounded by Harleys
revving their engines, skulls grinning. 

Soon, you will wake to bodyguards peeling redfruit
on the rocky coast or fall and fall through green water, tangled
in the limbs of drowned deer.  Or throw a leg
over that Harley slowing to offer you a ride.

Mary Stebbins Taitt
From a MNP prompt by Pat Lawler, published by Turtle Ink Press, 2007
with new illo

Out of the Nest! (Hiatus from Cowbird)

Out of the Nest
painting by me (Mary Stebbins Taitt)
pan, acrylic, pigmnet markers, pastels
click image to view larger

I printed out a couple of my cowbird stories for hubby Keith to read, and he said, "Cowbird, that's a perfect name. Cowbird is pushing all your other projects out of the nest." I immediately felt angry. Guilty, defensive, annoyed. Not because he was falsely attacking me, but because he'd hit a nail on the head.
Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend and colleague, and we asked each other about our various projects. She had a lot of progress to report on hers. I could only say that I'd written a number of Cowbird stories lately. I think it's like an addiction for me. And harmful.
Everything else on my plate has inadvertently been pushed to the back burner. My children's books. My adult novels, my poetry manuscript. My sending things out. My financial arrangements.
Always, I believe it won't take me long to do a Cowbird story and THEN I will do my real work. I am writing this story, right now, on a small device while walking (a Psion). I'm killing two birds with one stone, getting my exercise and writing. That should be a good thing, right?
I don't want to kill any birds. Not unless I'm awfully hungry.
But here's the thing. What I am writing now, this first draft Cowbird story, will be finished--in rough first draft form—by the time I get home. I may even write several others.
Yea! I will have written a story. But hold on. It's still inside my device. And the device, because it is small and I am walking, is hard to use without making mistakes.
So then the process goes like this;
1. download story (I need special software and a special computer to do this; I can’t do on my regular computer.) And then I have to transfer it to the regular computer.
2. basic editing (fix typos etc); while I'm editing, I see revisions
3. revisions; try to make the writing better.
4. repeat above 2 steps about 5 times
5. Paint a picture or find one somewhere. For this piece, I image a humanoid bird-figure with a Cowbird mask (KKK-style) pushing baby birds out of a nest. Each is labeled like a political cartoon with the names of my projects that are being neglected.
I'm not a very good artist, so actualizing what I see in my head is difficult for me. It may take several days of work.
And here's the thing, once I start a project and until I complete it, I become a woman possessed. I want to see it through--any project--that is—I don’t want to do ANYTHING ELSE--until I get interrupted and the process stalls. That's how projects end up on the back burner.
So if I write this story, or any other, I want to stick with it until I see it in print.
6. If I painted something, I have to scan it and tweak it (the scanner doesn't produce an image that looks like the original.) (Even tweaking it rarely gets it back where it was).
7. I have to upload the picture and the story to Cowbird, further tweak it, add characters, dedication, time, location, etc.
All this takes me a long time.
THEN, there is instant gratification: Love. Ah, love. Sweet love. (Or is it?) Virtual love, anyway.
And then there is reading. My device (the Psion) doesn't get the internet, and I couldn't really read while walking anyway, hard enough write while walking. [That's why I can only create a first draft--my fingers know the keyboard--it doesn't require visual attention.]
I not only want to write, but also to READ all your wonderful heartfelt stories. They move me. Often, they move me to want to write a response, and the cycle starts over again.
OK, now I'm home, and hubby Keith is making dinner tonight. I will try to paint an image to go with this story. When I finish the painting, I will post the story. I may also post a poem; I also may post a photograph (I had one I wanted to post.).
I have about 25 to 30 other stories I've already written for Cowbird on other walks. But here is my vow: After this ONE (and the poem and photo), NO MORE until I've done some serious work on several major projects that need to be pulled back onto the front burner. Those many other stories will have to wait.
And NO SPROUTS until I've made some real visible progress.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hope Springs (A personal review)

(If you don't like personal, don't read this.)
Hope Springs

            Keith didn't really want to go, thought "it didn't sound interesting, except for the actress," but I nearly begged him, and he agreed.  We went to see Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in the movie, Hope Springs.

            I think the title is a play on the phrase, "hope springs eternal," although it is also the name of the fictional Maine town where most of the movie takes place. (It was actually filmed in Stonington, Connecticut.)

            In the movie, a middle-aged (later middle-aged) couple attends an intensive sex therapy week.  I had an idea what the movie might be like, though I had not seen a trailer or read much about it.  I described to Keith what I imagined, and my overall imaginings were right on target.  But the devil, or in this case, the angel, is in the details, the acting, the cinematography.

            When we walked out, I said to Keith, "would you be willing to go to something like that?"  And he said, "I guess so, if it would improve our sex life." Oops, oh-oh, that means he's dissatisfied.  Wah!

            I think our sex life is fairly good, considering the constraints of age and health.  What I would like to improve is our communication skills and thus, hopefully, our marriage in general, which while good, could be better.  I do feel a little like Kay (Meryl Streep) in the movie, wanting something more from marriage.  Something a bit intangible--I probably simply need to come to grips with my own demons, to speak up to Keith when I'm unhappy. Ask for changes rather than complain.

            While I wouldn't complain if our sex life improved, since there is always room for improvement (it would help if we went to bed before I was drop-dead exhausted), I feel really lucky.  MY husband is so much more loving, tender, sexually available and affectionate than Arnold, the husband in the movie (played by Tommy Lee Joes).

            The therapist, Dr. Bernard Feld, played by the cute Steve Carrell, was wonderful.  Patient and direct.  Full of kindness and humor. Intelligent.  I wished the movie was longer and showed more of the interactions with the therapist.  I wish my hubby and I could see this guy.  Of course, we all wish for happy endings and a world with happy moments and middles and no happy endings.

            A small complaint is that the movie jumped too quickly from the drama of no-longer consummated "love" to a resolution at the end.  I would have been happier if it were a little longer and explored a bit more of the transition.

            The acting was accomplished and there were none of those awful video game effects that so many producers think they have to put in movies these days.  No car chases, no shoot 'em ups, no diving out of airplanes or off motorcycles, no hanging suspended over molten lead or miles up off a crumbling cliff.  Just good acting.  Excellent acting, as one would expect from these actors.  I liked it--a lot.  It was like attending an excellent theater production. And I would recommend it not just for older couples, for anyone who enjoys good acting.

You can see a larger versions of the small painting in the center of the graphic above where it was origianl published in The Browsing Corner Zine here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Keith, tired and contemplative
Quick-sketch with Sarasa pen and folk art acrylics
by Me, Mary Stebbins Taitt
please click to view larger.


Theoretically, I am not a big fan of romance novels, but I've accidentally been on a streak of reading them because I didn't know they were romance novels; I thought I was reading crime/mystery novels. Theoretically, I don't like crime/mystery novels, either, but I've been trying my hand at writing one, for fun, and was looking at Nora Roberts, who seems doing well in the field—I am checking out her chops.
I learned, when researching Nora Roberts online, that her books are crossovers, a combination of crime and romance. GAK! If I were paying enough attention, I would have known that. The tension in the books comes not only from the escalating crimes, often murders, but also from the romantic stress. It would be delicious, if it weren't for the gushy stuff.
Two of the things I hate about genre fiction are the clich├ęs and the predictability.
For example, all of Nora Robert's heroines (protagonists) look and act the same. They are tall, slender, have long legs, a full lower lip and are tough. Perhaps that's what Nora herself looks and acts like--or wishes she did. I know I have a tendency to want my protagonists to look a bit of like me, when I was younger—to be me, in a Walter-Mitty-ish sort of way.
In the current novel, Search, which, by the way, I have to sheepishly admit I am really enjoying, as I also enjoyed Chasing Fire, the last one I read, I keep predicting what I think will happen next. I was delightfully surprised when exactly what I expected to happen happened, but with a twist. Yes, an exciting, unexpected little warp as the plot thickens. (Yea thickening plot!)
But then, there's that awful romance: "I want to grow old with you," one character gushes to another.
Growing old together is sweet. But it is not for the faint of heart.
Sometimes, the one you love sickens and dies. Sometimes, you do. You each must endure and/or witness pain and suffering. Sometimes, the person you love disappears into their deteriorating brain cells and doesn't remember you--or you don't remember them.
I would be lying if I said I wasn't afraid.
I am.
Meanwhile, this is my husband, shown above. He is tired and contemplative after a long day’s work as I quick-sketch him at the dinner table. My love for this man, and his for me, not only continues, but also evolves and deepens.
This is the romance I prefer. Not wondering how our story will end (no happy ending, we're both going to die, like everyone else), but this every-day love we share. That's romance. Real romance.

Notes: the image above I quick-sketched and quick painted in my new California/Malaysia sketchbook at dinner 8/13/12, two nights ago. Sarasa pen and folk art acrcylics.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

soft pastels
by me, Mary Stebbins Taitt
PLEASE click image to view larger

Freedom and Hope, a Hummingbird Story

Inside the nature center where I once worked, high above our heads, spiderwebs captured hummingbirds. The birds struggled and struggled, but could not free themselves. In the summer heat, the employees had opened the doors in hopes of a breeze and the hummingbirds, attracted to the feeders just outside the door, became confused by arriving visitors, flew into the building and were trapped, first inside the building and then in the spiderwebs.
Their metabolism is so high that if they weren't freed before sunset, they could die overnight in the webs. They needed to feed and roost properly to survive the night.
Although I hadn't worked at the nature center in years, I got out the ladder, climbed to the webs, and carefully wrapped my hands around the struggling birds. I could hardly believe how tiny they were. I felt the rapid pulse of their hearts against my palms.
As I took them out and away from the building, sunset approached. I opened my hands and watched them fly. I hoped they had time for enough food to keep them alive over the night. I had acted as quickly as I could and been rewarded with the incredible privilege of holding their hearts in my hands and setting them free.

1)the art piece is by me, tonight, in my new California/Malasia Sketchbook, in soft pastels.
2)I marked it "summer," because it was summer when this happened, "outsiders" because I no longer worked at the nature center and was definitely and outsider there, and "working" because I had worked there for many years in the past and was doing nature center work.
3)The story is dedicated to Erin and Kiki (with the picture, of course). The art (with the story) is dedicated to Jim and Chris Niskanen. (We really enjoyed the hummingbirds in their back yard when we visited them last month.)

A Room in the Fog

A Room in the Fog
please click image to view larger

A Room in the Fog

Clouds of fog drifted past as we entered the campground, wisps of fog dangled and danced around us as we erected our tents. Droplets hung on our hair and condensed on the tents. Our clothes dampened and clung.
Darkness crept around us; it was late after the long drive. I studied the map. We wanted to stretch our legs and set off through fog to walk to the beach on dark unfamiliar trails. I knew the trail ran down to the beach, but not how it twisted, turned, rose and fell through dark cedars and irregular dunes. I didn’t know if there might be side trails.
We didn’t turn on a flashlight. Instead, we walked slowly, felt the trail with our feet, allowed our eyes to adapt to the dark. It’s easy to get lost in the woods in the dark, easy to get lost on the fog, easy to get turned around, wander in circles. The trail went through black cedars, up, down, left, right. Soon, however, we could hear and smell the water, at first a quiet roar.
Then we heard the clear sound of waves falling onto the sand and the soft swish as they retreated back. Thicker fog rolled up the dark beach from the water. The water’s edge was dimly visible as a darker shade of black. At the edge, we paused and breathed.
We searched around in the dark, collected driftwood and built a cairn to mark the spot so we would know where to turn back to camp when we returned. Then, we walked down the beach. The fog opened in front of us, closed behind us and formed a “room” around us. Oddly, we could see a few stars above, so the fog wasn’t deep.
Also, strangely, the fog seemed to glow with a faint luminosity. It seemed brighter than the night. I wondered if there was a moon, or if the stars alone lit the fog. No man-made lights shone nearby.
Driftwood, sometimes whole logs, and dead fish (recognized by their smell) entered our room at the front, passed through and retreated out the back. Piles of crunchy mussel shells slid under our feet and away. The fog smelled faintly of the bay, of fish, seaweed and fecundity.
We walked on and on, barely seeing, barely hearing, barely smelling, barely feeling. Gradually, I became frightened. It seemed like a nightmare, as if I’d been walking forever in darkness. When I spoke my fear, warm voices reassured me. Hands appeared in mine. Comfort.
I realized we are all on a journey; we are never safe. We can’t see very far ahead, can’t even really see much around us. But we have this room in the fog, this moment. We have companions and an opportunity for love.
We took the room with us, back down the beach to the cairn, up through the dunes to the tents, and then, we had a room within a room. We crawled into our bags, and cocooned by layers of down, tent, fog, sky and stars, we slept, two of us twined around each other. Our son slept too, close by.

For Keith, Graham and Heidi (At the Pinery)
1)This is a "true story" and I originally wrote about it in my journal in late May 2006, right after it happened. I edited the piece somewhat to shorten it.
2)The image is a photoshopped "photo-art" piece. I took some time exposures of the dunes in fog at night, but I can't find them. I have too many pictures!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Poem: Brilliance Afield

Brilliance Afield

Burning the wild lands, the moon rises gold; gold the eyes of wolves
Running in a rapid crouch up the snowy hill.  Exhaling,
I slip into the aspens, follow their tracks into a threshold of
Light under the firs.  The moon squats fat among them. I
Linger and watch, afraid.  Discard the fantasy that
I could be accepted, that I could be safe, that I could run.  With them.
A screech of owl cries. Wolves sing: close chorus, far response.
Nothing contains the fierce sacredness of this music.  I want to
Call back from this hidden body.  I pluck a tuft of fur from a drift,
Embrace bare branches, moon-bruised sky.  In

A cloud-smudged mirror of ice, shadows flicker, a broke
Face of moon shimmers.  I whisper: elk, caribou, antelope.  Stubbornly,
I reclaim the dream of hunting with the wolves.  Oh folly!  Will I return to this
Evening over and over, sifting through these images, lies and dreams?
Late-night owl calls again.  Wolf tracks fade in drifting snow.  I glimpse
Deer, then fox.  Braid my tracks into theirs.

1)This is an Acrostic poem. Acrostics are often used as games or doggerel. I have chosen here to attempt a serious acrostic poem. 
2)I would like to invite anyone interested to "play along" by writing serious (or not-so serious) acrostic poems and then posting the links in my comments section. I am sure you all know that in an acrostic poem, the first letter of each line creates a word when read vertically. It is a fun way to write about love or friendship or any other topic.
3)Poem and art by me, Mary Stebbins Taitt, published in Avocet. I'd love to think all of you subscribe to Avocet and have already read my poem, but I am guessing that is not the case. Because published poems are often read only by those who subscribe, I think I may post one of my published poems, maybe once a week, to share them with you. I hope that's OK.
4)I tagged this as a "working" saga piece, because this is my work.

Seeking Serenity in the Face of Advice

Al Anon meeting
by Mary Stebbins Taitt
Artrage and Photoshop
click to view larger!

Serenity with Good and Bad Advice

At one time, I attended Al Anon for a number of years.  My partner drank and when he drank, he was abusive.  I went to Al Anon to learn how to cope.

At Al Anon, we sat in a circle and took turns telling of our troubles.  Then, others would respond, telling how it was with them.  We were instructed not to give advice, but instead, to say how we coped ourselves with similar problems, or, how we'd seen someone else cope.  In a way, it was a form of advice, but a gentle form.

And we shared hugs, and smiles.

They had a saying, a slogan, at Al Anon,

"Take what you like and leave the rest."  

Generally, that was pretty easy to do.  Occasionally, I felt pressured to do what someone obviously wanted me to do.  When that happened, I often “had a resentment.”

In daily life, many people offer advice.  Most of it rolls off me like water off a ducks back.  I drink in what I need, what seems helpful, and ignore the rest.

Sometimes, I ask for advice, when someone knows how to do something and I don't.  I rarely ask for advice in matters of the heart, because who knows love?  Who really understands?

But some people are strident and insistent in their advice-giving, or manage to push my buttons.  Worst of all is when someone gives really bad advice, such as suggesting that I lie, steal, cheat or do some other action that I feel is wrong, or their advice is totally wrong because they truly don't understand the situation.

Insistent, strident BAD advice causes the most difficulty for me.

Of course, what is bad may be in the ear of the listener.  But if someone advises me to lie, or tells me to perform an action on the computer that I know, from long experience, will harm an important file, and then INSISTS on it as being the correct action to take, that is when I get upset, angry, sad.

And then I feel shame for anger.  :-(

I am not as patient, cheery and imperturbable as I would like to be.  This is my issue, something I need to work on.

If someone I love, care about, and trust advises me to lie or do something foolish, I am an adult and can say no.  I wish I could remember that when the heat of the moment overtakes me.    

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Feeling Like an Outsider at Pier Park

Cowbird has added a new theme on outsiders, and I wrote this and some other pieces.  But I want to write some on being an "insider," of sorts, too.

Outsider: Pier Park

When I arrive at Pier Park, I plan my walking route to avoid the beach, the pool and the clubhouse as much as possible. It's a hot day, the park is crowded with visitors, and I am not fond of crowds. I do, however, love the breeze off Lake St. Clair that ameliorates the heat slightly.
Pier Park is a private Park, for residents of my area. As a resident, I have the right to come here and walk. But I don’t fit in.
I think about being an outsider as I walk past the boat slips with their huge expensive boats. The only boat I've ever owned is half a canoe, which my second husband took when he abandoned me.
To my left is open water, small waves lapping on the pier, and a sailboat, picturesque with its sails filled against blue sky, blue waves. A teenager drifts behind the sailboat on an inflated raft, dangling his feet in the water and laughing.
Most of the people at Pier Park are wealthy, far wealthier than I have ever been or ever will be. They have smart phones, boat phones, fancy cars, big fancy houses and pretty children with haircuts and clean, neat clothes. If clean, neat clothes sounds like a strange thing to be envious of, it is because I, as a child, and later, my own children never, looked as neat or well-coifed. We lived in hand-me-down play clothes and ran wild in the woods, coming home scratched and dirty barely in time for dinner and bedtime.
I listen to these kids playing in the water at the beach I'm trying to avoid. They sound like kids everywhere, as they splash, dive, build sandcastles, race through the shallows playing tag and Marco Polo. They sound happy, and I'm glad, but, if I could choose, I would not trade my wild childhood for this tamer one.

(You've probably already figured this out, but I am the messy kid on the right.)