INKLINGS

March 18, 2009 at 12:38 am (Authors, Books, Brother John, Entertainment, Eydie Wight, Family, Friends, music, poetry, Stories) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Siggy

Our Guest Blogger... Siggy!

Hello, my name is “Siggy“, and I have been asked to write a “Guest Blog”. I will get right to it; you can find out a little bit more about me at the end (and hopefully, by reading my story about the Inklings)!

Last year, my wife and I watched a documentary of C.S. Lewis, the British author whose impressive list of books includes the well-known, “Chronicles of Narnia” series. (By the way, every book C.S. Lewis published during his life time–over twenty–is still in print.) The documentary was actually a Christmas gift from the year before; one of those things that just are put aside to get to “later”, you know? Well, I guess the time was right, and we put it on to watch. During the program, it was mentioned that Lewis belonged to a small group of writers who got together regularly for several decades (another notable member of the group was J.R.R. Tolkien, famous for “Lord Of The Rings“). They called themselves the “Inklings“. My wife loved this name, and told me if we ever started a writers group, that was what we should call it. We talked about who else might be in the group, and we both suggested our friend and fellow-writer, Eydie — hence, this connection to her blog site!

Our small writing group, Inklings, is very important to me. To me the name is really important. If our group can provide even a little spark and motivation for the participating members it is all worth it. Inklings is a perfect name. I want our small writing group to encourage the writers it in to continue to improve — to be the best writers they can be.

I never forgot an anecdote related by Arthur Gordon which told the story of two writing groups that had met decades ago, when the participants were still in college. The two groups were about equal in talent. One was a group of women whose members were kind to one another and did everything in their power to encourage each other, while the all male group, who aptly called themselves “The Stranglers“, were brutal with one another and ripped into each others work. Years later, not one prominent writer had come out of The Stranglers, but several emerged from the women’s group, including Marjorie Rawlings, author of “The Yearling“.

After hearing that story, I was determined that Inklings would be a place where we could encourage each other, not tear each other apart. We held our first meeting in August 2008, just three of us — myself, my wife, and Eydie. Now Inklings is starting to grow. A graphic artist came twice, she works for the publisher who printed Eydie‘s first book of poetry, “September Butterfly.” In February we gained our first (and second!) virtual members. BlogMaster, Brother John, is now a member and I am sure he will bring us into the 21st century, and beyond, with his networking talents, and hopefully we will be encouraging his creativity in the writing area. My old friend, Sara, who recently married and moved to North Carolina to begin a new chapter in her life, also joined us long-distance. Sara just this past week completed her studies and became an ordained minister because she wanted to marry people! And this month, another person, a registered lobbyist, joined us for the first time and expressed an interest in coming back. As you can see, our growing group is diverse.

Each time we meet (usually at Eydie‘s or our home) we talk and get to know each other better. I usually pull a few passages from my writing resource library to inspire discussion and then we do a few exercises. In the past, they might have consisted of writing about a piece of music one member shared. Sometimes I pick an interesting photo for us to write about. The ground rules are usually the same: write five minutes without lifting your pen, neither changing anything or crossing out. Then we share what we wrote with each other. We usually have a break and a snack or two.

At the moment, Inklings is doing a “chain” story. This exercise will probably take at least two months to complete. One person writes a chapter and then another adds another, etc. We usually have another home assignment. This month we are writing a description of someone, then next meeting we will compare notes. Last month, we shared our stories of one significant event in our lives.

We try to meet once a month, coordinating our schedules to pick a date. So far, it has all worked out. It has been a challenge to figure our how to include the virtual members in our group. E-mail and snail mail certainly help. We are still working that one out. But my goal remains the same: I want each person, present or virtual, to get better as a writer, to NOT compare their writings with others, but only to feel that they are improving as a writer. AND, to be encouraged to WRITE!!!

A bit more about me:

Our Inklings group ties in well with the web site I started in January — “Siggy’s Café for Writers and Poets”, www.siggyscafe.com, and my Blog, Siggy’s Blurbs (which I never expected to be doing, since I don’t like to type!) www.siggyscafe.com/Blog. Inklings and Siggy’s Café are encouraging me as well! At the web site, I want to encourage budding and experienced writers. There are articles on the writing process, a bibliography of suggested reading, inspirational quotes, current and classic poetry, a Word Of The Day, and more. There is also an article I wrote about the best record albums from the 1960’s & 1970’s that are still available today on CD. I absolutely love music, and to me one of the greatest things is sharing or recommending a wonderful piece of music to someone else. I love to write, I love to read my poetry in public, and I love to listen to music.

Should anyone wish to contact me about this post, or just to say hello, you can do so at: Siggy’s e-Mail.

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Cooking Thanksgiving with Uncle Mike

November 26, 2008 at 9:26 am (Brother John, Family, Friends, Stories, Visit) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

Cooking Thanksgiving with Uncle Mike

First of all, I’d like to issue a disclaimer. To any family members who were actually AT this Thanksgiving dinner, and actually READ this: I have a somewhat dim recollection of all the events that occurred but I’m going to write about them anyway. This is how I remember it!

It was the first Thanksgiving after Granny died and the whole family was making a special effort to get together for dinner at Granddad’s. My second husband Greg, my son Roger, and I had made the trip in from Indiana to stay at my parents for a nice long visit through the holidays. Rog was only about three and I was still in respiratory school. I volunteered to go over to Granddad’s the evening before to help Granddad shop, get the turkey ready, make the pies, sweet potato casserole, and anything else that could be done ahead of time. My Mom said she would stay home with Rog and then they would all come over early Thanksgiving morning. I was surprised when Uncle Mike said he would come down the night before and help with the cooking, but tickled too.

Uncle Mike has always been a very cool uncle. One year when Brother John got a microscope for Christmas Uncle Mike not only let us stick pins in his fingers a billion times so we could look at blood, he also let us look at skin flakes, boogers, arm hair, and spit. He would babysit us when we were kids. I don’t think we ever got to bed on time when Uncle Mike was there. I can remember being cranked up on soda and candy and jumping up and down on the bed yelling at the top of my lungs just for the sake of the irritating noise of it. Uncle Mike took it like a sport.

Now, by this time I was a grown up married lady and had had my hand up many a turkey’s cavity to fill it with stuffing, but mind you always with my Granny or my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law around for moral support. This would be my first solo run without a matriarch to guide me. But, I was no stranger to cooking and was ready for the task at hand. Sure I was.

I arrived at Granddad’s and after he greeted me with his usual “How are you Sweet Thing?” we settled in at the table to make lists. Or rather I made lists, consulted Granddad, and he read me bits and pieces from the newspaper and showed me the Thanksgiving cards he’d received. God love him, he wanted everything to be just like it was when Granny made Thanksgiving dinner. As he went down the list of food I began to feel the first creeping signs of unease. Surely in past years we hadn’t had all that food? Yes turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, corn, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie. But did we really have in addition corn bread, deviled eggs, pickled eggs and red beets, three bean chowder, Lima beans, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, stuffing balls, ham, pineapple upside down cake, cookies, apple dumplings, a pickle and olive tray, dips for pretzels and chips, and hot dogs for my son who at that time in his life ate nothing but hot dogs? How did Granny do it? Granddad had lovingly gotten out all of Granny’s recipes and placed them in a (towering) stack for me to look over.

Armed with my list, Granddad picked up his crutches (he’d been injured in an industrial accident several years back and had nearly lost his legs) and we went out to his big salmon colored Cadillac. Talk about a beautiful car. Leather seats as soft as butter. He handed me the keys and we floated our way into town. That car just about drove itself. I was doing 90 before I knew it. Granddad’s hand on the armrest never even tightened its grip, not even when we sort of sailed over a huge bump and I’m sure all four white walled tires left the ground.

Our first stop was the liquor store. I was a little puzzled when Granddad grabbed a shopping cart on the way in. I soon understood as he went down the aisles. “Now, Sweet Thing, get you a bottle of that Scotch you like, and get your Aunt Deb some of that stuff there, I forget what it’s called but that’s the bottle, and your cousin Tim drinks Jack Daniels and Kathy drinks Old Granddad and your dad likes a Seagram’s Seven and seven -up…” and the list went on and on. He knew what everyone from family members to family friends liked to drink and bought it. The bill was more than I took home in a week! I was thinking that all that liquor never took into consideration that most of the men hung out in Granddad’s shed before dinner and drank his homemade plum brandy anyway and smoked their cigarettes and cigars while he sharpened their pocket knives!

I pulled the now loaded Caddy into Granddad’s driveway, just missing the snow-ball bush to the right and the big walnut tree to the left (at least missing the big walnut tree THIS time) and pulled in beside Uncle Mike’s car. We got the groceries unloaded and it was time to cook. I forgot to mention that Granddad had gotten some of the groceries a day or so before I got there. To my consternation I saw that he had gotten real potatoes to make the mashed potatoes. Not the instant I had planned to make, then hide the box, and hope no one noticed. He had also gotten “real” bread cubes, four big bags of them, for the stuffing. No Stove Top, I sighed. Fortunately, Uncle Mike turned out to be a pretty good cook and took everything in stride. We got the turkey washed and the giblets cooked. (Granddad was horrified when I prepared to throw out the neck. No neck? “Why there’s some commin’ that’d soon have the neck as the whole dang turkey,” he said. By this time it was late, and things were moving along very slowly. Uncle Mike got the pumpkin pies in while I was peeling the hard boiled eggs to put in with the pickled beets. New eggs. New eggs that didn’t want to peel. Lots of new eggs that didn’t want to peel. Uncle Mike lent a hand and we made the most pitted and cratered plate of deviled eggs you ever saw. The pickled eggs floated in the dark beet juice looking like I had beat them with a stick. Uncle Mike said, “Tastes good, all that counts.”

Finally, just about everything was prepared. Granddad had long since nodded off at the kitchen table and was finally persuaded to go to bed. I was yawning and Uncle Mike kept saying, one more thing, and then I’ll go home for awhile and see you in the morning. The last thing on the agenda was the making of the stuffing balls. Now our family likes their stuffing done outside the turkey. We use an ice cream scoop to make balls of stuffing that are cooked in pans in the oven. The stuffing comes out crispy on the outside and the inside is moist enough to stick together but no more. Many a heated discussion has revolved around the stuffing balls and whether or not they were the desirable “bone dry” balls. Granny always got it just right. As we started to shake out the bags of bread cubes into the big mixing bowl I noticed what I thought was a piece of blue bread wrapper in the bowl. I picked it out, and then immediately spied another piece. “Uncle Mike,” I cried aghast, “these bread cubes are MOLDY.” Granddad had gotten the stuffing cubes a day or so ago and had put them on top of the refrigerator. The top of the fridge gets warm, the moisture left in the cubes provides a nice growth medium, and there you have it. We just looked at each other, knowing there was no place open (especially in those days) to buy more. Granddad only had a few slices of bread left in his loaf. So, we started picking mold off the cubes. Uncle Mike said, “penicillin won’t hurt you, right?” Now I’m thinking that that’s not the only kind of mold that can grow on bread, and some people are allergic to penicillin anyway. But, Thanksgiving dinner and no stuffing balls? There would be mutiny. So, until two A.M. I picked and pored over the bread cubes. Finally we made the stuffing balls, ready to pop in the oven come morning. We stored them in the fridge to retard further growth. Uncle Mike left for home and a few hours sleep and I poured myself a hefty Scotch, shed a few tears in the dishwater as I cleaned up, and started getting out the “good” dishes, serving spoons, extra silverware, and coffee cups.

Thanksgiving day dawned. I know it dawned because I saw it. I had gotten as far as putting on my pajamas after Uncle Mike left, but that was as close to beddy-bye as I got. As I watched the sun come up into a clear sky that promised a crisp perfect day I gave thanks that I was blessed with such a large loving family. I also prayed that no one would get sick from the meal, that I would manage to be awake for over 24 hours without becoming a demented shrew, and that Granny would forgive me my many trespasses in the preparation of the family meal.

My mom, dad, husband and son were the first to arrive, followed quickly by pretty much the world. Aunts, Uncles, cousins, second cousins, neighbors, friends, all were welcomed. Everywhere I looked I saw mouths filled with food. The kids were running around the table snatching an olive or pickle here, a cookie or some chips there. And then, it was the moment of truth. The turkey came out of the oven at the right moment and was done to perfection. The mashed potatoes I had delegated to mom with a certain amount of desperation. I had peeled them, I had cooked cooked them, and then she did all sorts of mysterious things with warm milk and butter and came up with smooth mounds of creamy goodness. I made Uncle Mike take the stuffing balls from the oven and pass them around to the ohhs and ahhs of anticipated satisfaction. The balls were lightly browned, pleasing to the eye. They smelled heavenly and I saw that most people took at least two. My dad took the first bite as I bit my tongue and he pronounced, “Bone dry.” The highest compliment. I felt my face turn as red as the pickled beets and I choked back the laughter that was holding hands with the urge to tell on myself. Mom patted my shoulder, “She’s shy.” I felt my face grow redder and added to myself, “and possibly a murderer.” I coughed and mom said, “I hope you’re not coming down with something.” Uncle Mike passed me a stuffing ball. “Here, fix you right up.” (Brother John here… ah yes… and I’m sure he said it with a twinkle in his eye… So much humor and irony expressed with so few words!)

I watched closely for the remainder of the day but no one’s throat swelled up forcing me to do an emergency tracheotomy with the pen Uncle Dave had given me that said, “From the desk of Dave Reed.” One of my second cousins DID throw up but I think that was due more to the entire box of chocolate covered cherries she had eated when no one was watching. By mid afternoon Granddad had run out of chairs and sofa’s for uncle’s to sleep on. Uncle Mike was stretched out on the lining room floor in front of the football game on TV. The snores were so loud and varied that we women giggled from the kitchen as we gossiped and washed dishes. There were no left over stuffing balls. My mom hugged me and said , “Granny would be proud of you.”

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Announcement!

November 16, 2008 at 9:34 pm (Authors, Books, Brother John, Family, Mead Making, poetry, Stories) (, , , , , , , , )


By Sammy Wight

Beautiful Fall Scene

I was so pleased this past Thursday when we drove into the “Burg” of “Harris” for a long awaited special event; the day had finally arrived after two years of very laborious work, when my wife Eydie had completed her first book of poetry entitled: “SEPTEMBER BUTTERFLY“.

The printer was excited to be working with her to ensure that this book would be perfectly bound and presented with a cover that everyone would be proud to own a copy. They told us that the book would be ready to pick up by December 3rd this year, so we became even more excited! That means when our Perry County Arts Council has it to display among all the other artistic contributions from our area, that we can proudly offer it to her fans and future fans! I have also heard that 2 other local writers are planning a “book signing” party at the arts council in Newport, so, it should be a very uplifting time for Eydie and her family and friends this year.

Eydie has also spoken with a representative from the “Borders” media store about hosting a book signing there, and from all first glances, it appears that we can schedule that also. I am so proud of her for her work on this book, and the future contributions that will come from her arsenal of stories waiting to be completed.

Eydie has a wonderful story that she has written called, “The Christmas Bear“, that we hope to have ready by next Christmas. It will have some detailed illustrations that are contributions from one of her artist friends. Eydie’s time has finally arrived that she can complete some of these long awaited projects and share them with her fans. Believe me, her dreams each night, as told to me every morning, are just as vivid and spectacular as her poems and stories. I guess the next thing is for us to get our “Screenplay” written from a dream i had back in the mid 70’s that has never eluded me and is begging to be written and made into a very powerful film. I know Eydie is chompin’ at the bit to write a story to the website and offer her interpretation of things.

I sent brother John many photos from our Fall Driving adventures, and from our bottling of the wine and mead recently. By the way……….the Mead tastes wonderful! Wait til you see the photos!

(Brother John here. Well… why wait? Feel free to click on each image below to see it at full size!)

Beautiful Fall Scene

Fruits of our labor #1

Fruits of our labor #2 Fruits of our labor #3

Well, bye for now, and hope to hear back from our readers!

Happy Holidays!
Sammy

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I’ll never forget Melanie.

October 27, 2008 at 12:02 am (Family, Friends, GOD, New friends, Places, Religious, Stories, Sylvia) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Sylvia

I’ll never forget Melanie. She was a beautiful young woman, taken from this life way too early. Mel was so nonjudgmental… she found the beauty and possibility in everyone, reflected by her genuine smile, and sparkling eyes.

It was October of 2001… a time when we all were still freshly bruised from 9/11. I wanted more than ever to be surrounded by friends for a week at the shore. I rent a place that looks out onto the ocean at 4th street in Ocean City, New Jersey. This would be the first of an annual tradition. Mel was definitely on board, and couldn’t wait to join me there for at least a couple of days.

Days before the beach venture, I got a call from her saying she couldn’t make it. She had developed excruciating back pain and went to see her doctor. She had an appointment to get an MRI, and one night at work, the pain was so intense, she called the same doctor and told him. He instructed her to meet him in the MRI. Hours later, he determined that her liver was four times its normal size. It was then that she was diagnosed with liver cancer. The treatment began immediately.

When I arrived at the beach, I went to the shore line. I thought of Mel, and her demise. I knew she was going through some difficult times, and I bowed my head in thoughts and prayers for her recovery. When I looked up there was a double rainbow. I didn’t move, for fear I would miss it. I just stood there and let it wash over me. I was hoping this was a good sign.

Fast-forward to June of 2002. I finally left my husband of 23 years and was a “traveler” at Johns Hopkins. The agency provided me with a luxury apartment on the water in Fell’s Point. Four women came down to visit me one weekend in June. Mel was one of them. She adorned a black wig, nothing like her own raven hair, but her olive skinned beauty glowed more than ever. Her gleaming white teeth almost mocked me, against her always tanned look. Mel had strong Croatian roots, and she turned heads everywhere. It was 100 degrees in Baltimore that summer day, and we all hoped Mel would just want to hang out in an air conditioned bar, instead, she drug us around the city honing our tourist roles. We laughed and cried all weekend. That was the last time I saw her alive.

I moved to Hershey six weeks later to accept a position at the Med Center. Mel and I had been in touch via emails and phone calls. She was told that no more could be done. In September, I attended her funeral. Mel was only forty-one.

The following January, I had the most vivid dream of my life.

I was at a party. For some reason it was being held at Longwood Gardens. All of my favorite people were there. Over in a corner was Mel in a little girl’s party dress complete with a big blue satin bow. (Was this image because I think of her as being so young?)

“Mel!!” I gasped. “What are you doing here? You died!!”, I said.

With that, she began to float away, and was smiling, but with tears in her eyes, she said,

“I miss you guys!!”

“We miss you too, Mel…we talk about you all of the time!” I cried.

“I know“, she continued, “I hear you guys talking about me, even when it’s not out loud… I hear you ALL of the time….do you know what that is??”

“No” I retorted “what is it?”

“That’s what HEAVEN is”, she explained. “And do you know what HELL is?”, she asked.

“Noooo”, I wasn’t sure whether I was replying or asking… and she simply put it,

“HELL IS HEARING NOTHING, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, THAT’S WHAT HELL IS”,

“THANK YOU GUYS FOR KEEPING ME IN HEAVEN!!

And with that, she floated away.

A few weeks later I drove home to see my folks. Although it was February, it was unseasonably warm. I loved the feeling of my then, longer hair blowing around with the sunroof open. My mom was employed at Penney’s. She was only to work until about 1pm, and we were going out to lunch, just the two of us. After a four hour drive I managed to pull into the mall parking lot with time enough to put on a little make up and pull back my unruly hair. I didn’t want to look as tired as I felt. I dug through a zipper bag to find anything to tie my locks out and away from my face. After the waitress took our order, mom reached up and fingered the ribbon in my hair.

“What’s this?”, she smiled, “Why, isn’t that the same blue satin ribbon from a party dress you had when you were a little girl?”

I didn’t realize it until that moment, but it was. I smiled up at Mel, keeping her in “HEAVEN”.

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Dreams

October 25, 2008 at 1:58 am (Dogs, GOD, Pets, Religious, Stories) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

The Dream.

I have a couple of recurring dreams that have been with me for a while. The first dream I started having when I was still in college. This is a dream that has grown in detail over the years. It’s of a huge old house. When I first enter it, it’s abandoned, dusty, musty, yet somehow ALIVE. It wants me there, but waits to see what I do. I’m frightened, but as I walk around a bit I notice all the old wood in the stair banisters and wainscoting, the grime coated chandeliers in the foyer, dining room and ball room that are miraculously intact, as is the stained glass rose window in the library, the library itself with shelf after shelf of books that are dirty but , thank God, not mildewed. Being me, I start cleaning. I scrub, polish, wax, buff, wash, dust, sweep, shine, sort, and rearrange a different part of the house each time I dream, discovering old lamps and sofas, trunks of long outdated clothes and antique curios. Every time I think, “Now wouldn’t it be cool if there was one of THOSE,” I find one. I’ve wished into existence Victorian lamps, marbled floors, first edition favorite children’s books, and our grandfather’s auto harp. So far I haven’t had to clean any room twice, I think my head just keeps adding on more rooms. But, as I get to the upper floors, the decay seems to be worse. The last time I dreamed of the house I saw that the attic had holes in the roof in places and the floor was rotted in others. I thought, “I don’t know how to fix that, maybe Sammy can help me, I’ll leave that part for last. “ Once I dreamed I found the music room and spent the night polishing, restringing, and tuning instruments. I woke the next morning with a sweet little tune I found on the grand piano music stand going through my head. Sometimes I have a faint sense of people there, and once a young translucent woman followed me around pantomiming placing objects in places she either remembered them being or thought they ought to be.

The second dream is of the meadow. After my first husband Roger died everyone in the family kept saying he came to see them in dreams. “Oh Roger came and talked to me.” “Roger told me he missed me in my dream.” I was so upset, that everyone was getting to see him but ME. And I was the one who wanted him so desperately, just a little more time. I would go to bed at sunset, just as soon as I could get the baby to sleep, and hope to dream. But it was months and he never came. Then one night I dreamed I was on a back country road. I was also on one of those little scooters from gym class that you power by twisting the handlebars from side to side. I had to drive this little scooter up and down hills and past fields of corn, alfalfa, and soybean. Finally as I crested a hill I saw a raised ranch style brick house. I parked my scooter by the door and went in without knocking. I was in a kitchen. And not just a kitchen, an Italian grandma’s kitchen. There was a huge pot (like my canning kettle on steroids) of red sauce simmering on the stove and a warm loaf of bread beside it. I broke off a chunk of bread, dipped a big scoop of sauce up with it, and stuffed it in my mouth. The sauce was thick and tangy, the bread crusty on the outside and heavy and chewy on the inside. The Grandma was sitting at a white metal kitchen table with flour up to her arms, kneading another loaf. I went to help her and she motioned rather vigorously for me to go downstairs, flinging flour off her hands and swinging the loose fat that hung under her arms.

As I went downstairs I heard the sound of billiard balls clacking and smelled cigar smoke. The basement was full of Italian men smoking cigars and shooting pool. They spoke and argued in Italian and one young man winked at me. One of the old men slapped him on the side of the head and said, “Nadda for you.” Then the old man jerked his head toward a partitioned room that had a curtain for a door. I ducked my head inside and found myself in a bathroom. “A bathroom?” I thought, aware at this point that I was dreaming. Then I noticed a door in the side of the room that was open a few inches. It was a narrow door, like a linen closet. I opened it, thinking to find another roll of toilet paper to put out since there was none left (you know how those Italian uncles are), and I kept going further into the dark space. I saw a little crack of light ahead of me, and as I reached for what I thought was another door I felt a shove to my back and stumbled across the threshold.

I found myself blinking in the bright sunlight of a beautiful meadow. A creek sidewindered its way across my field of vision. There was an old tree that had uprooted to hang over the creek. Uprooted but still alive and growing its branches nearly reached the water. The meadow sloped upward to a point where I could no longer see. I looked around, and then a speck of movement at the top of the meadow caught my eye. It was a person walking toward me. Long before I could see his face I recognized the lanky stride as my Roger. “Here you are,” I thought. “I’ve been waiting.” He came to me, and I knew I couldn’t touch him, I knew he was dead, but in that meadow we sat in the grass by the creek and I told him all about little Roger, and me, and life that kept barreling ahead and rolling me with it. And I was comforted.

Since then, I’ve revisited that meadow in my dreams several times. I always come to it in the same way. Roger is always there, always looking the same age as when he left us. But he knows I remarried, and was again widowed, and remarried again. He knows Rog works two jobs and goes to college. The last time I had the dream he had our dog Pickett with him, even though Pickett came into my life years after Roger had left it. He stood with one hand on the tree over the creek and one hand ruffling Pickett’s fur and Pickett was smiling with his tongue hanging out.

I’ve met others in the meadow. Greg stood once near the top, in the distance. He wouldn’t come down to me, but he sent Jack running down to race in circles around me, barking furiously. Once, I think I met GOD. He was fishing in the deep pool in the creek that had formed under the fallen tree and I sat beside him and he offered me those orange peanut butter crackers. I think it was GOD because there was such a huge sense of comfort, humor, understanding, and peace. I’m always glad to see that the heaven my subconscious creates includes my pets.

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Ghost Story II (Phantom Dog)

October 2, 2008 at 5:40 pm (Ghost, Hiking, Jasper, Stories) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


Ghost Dog

I woke up early this morning and thought I’d sit down and word ramble a little while the level in my coffee diminished. A departure from my usual mornings (or whatever passes for morning in our night shifter world!) Usually I rather arthritically moan and groan my way out of bed and move slowly to the coffee pot. I save the leftover coffee from the day before so a first cup can speedily warm in the microwave. As it warms I get the coffee pot going with fresh coffee. I’d like to say that I then stand at the kitchen window and watch the birds busy at the feeders, assess the approach of fall in the first leaves dropped from the three maples that stand by the swing, and generally absorb the nature of the day.

I’d like to say that (and, in fact, I DID just say that), but it would be a winky tinky lie. The truth is that invariably I take my first cup of coffee back into the bedroom where I make the bed. My Granny ingrained this in me so strongly that I will make beds in hotel rooms even when I know housekeeping is two doors down waiting for me to depart, even when we get up through the night for an hour or so during our usually insomniac nights off, even when I am washing our favorite linens that I intend to put right back on. Some of my early memories are of staying with Granny overnight. I’d sleep up in the finished attic. There was a double bed up there that Brother John got, and I had the single bed. It was one that had an old iron headboard. When we would go downstairs in the morning, Granny would ask sweetly (she NEVER raised her voice), “Did you make your bed honey?” She would never ask that if I had. She had this Granny ESP. I would turn around and head back upstairs and the habit has followed me all of my days. This habit (and dare I say others) didn’t stick with Brother John. He used to pay me to clean his room and I think if I lived closer he would STILL pay me to clean his room. (Brother John here… Yep! I’d pay. And pay gladly! And pay often!). Thinking about it, I’m not sure what would have happened if I had ever defied Granny. No one ever did. She never yelled, she never punished, she never argued. The most we ever heard was, “Now you don’t want to make Granny cross do you?” For us, that was like hearing, “Now you don’t want to have single-handedly stuck a knife in my heart or set fire to a house of poor, sick orphans, do you?” There would be no need for water boarding or any other torture methods if Granny was doing the interrogating. That one little statement and the worst terrorist would be on his knees sobbing.

Anyway, digression completed, after the bed is made I usually start right in to the daily house chores and whatever other tasks the day holds. By the time I’ve finished my hips, knees, and ankles are all loosened up and mostly ache free and I have satisfied my little obsessive compulsive soul with ACCOMPLISHMENT. (Uh, yeah. I do have a check off list…)

Oh, another thing. I wake up EVERY morning without fail with a song in my head. And believe me, that song is not choosy. It could be a song I’ve been learning on the fiddle or mandolin, it could just as easily be a commercial jingle, disco refrain, gospel chorus, Scottish reel, classical aria, or hillbilly ballad, my head doesn’t care. (Brother John here… a mild interruption. I too ALWAYS wake up with a song in my head. Must be a family thing). Many times I don’t even LIKE the song and go around begging Sammy to give me another tune, or turn music or the TV on. And, not only do I often not like the song, I never seem to know any more than a line or two of the words, so I get the same tiny piece that I do know repeating over and over. This morning, for example, as I sit here, it’s “Low Rider” by War. “Take a little trip, take a little trip, take a little trip with me.” Oh yeah. I used to play a mental game. Whatever the first complete song was that I heard on the radio after I got into my car to drive to work, would be the predictor of my shift. “Dream a Little Dream”, good. “Welcome to the Jungle”, bad. I finally stopped doing that when I realized that there were not nearly as many songs about nature and flowers and love as there were about cheatin’ slime bags or environmental decay.

Anyway, another digression completed. What I started to say was that October is here. Another season is making its self heard and seen and smelled. And remembered. About four or five years ago I had gotten into jogging. It started when my friend Anita and I started walking and yakking about husbands, work, kids, life, etc. Then we started jogging on the down hills, then jogging on the flats, then the little uphills. Before I knew it we were jogging four days a week, four to seven miles at a shot, and looking pretty fit as a result. (These days I walk, and not as often, and my figure reflects it.) On the days that we couldn’t get together, I would go by myself. This is a little October ghost story about something that happened while I was jogging.

My favorite time to jog was in the evening when the sun was low in the sky. I would try to time it so that I could catch the sunset on the top of Asper Hill first, then again as I rounded back to Knisely Hill. That meant that by the time I finished my usual four and a half mile loop and came down through the hollows, it would be just light enough to see my shoes hit the pavement. I liked the feeling that I was pushing the night back a little with each footfall. Most times I would take Jasper. At the time of this story we had only had him about a year. He was well behaved enough to never stray far, come right away when I called, and not fight with other dogs we might come across. But on this jog I didn’t take him. Archery season had come in. There would be both neighbors and strangers in the surrounding woods, at that time of day just heading out to walk or drive home. Around these parts, dogs who run deer are shot on site by some, and even though Jasper doesn’t have that habit, a loose dog could be conceived as possibly running deer, and shot by some. I’m not coordinated enough to have him leashed and jog at the same time, so I put his very reluctant (bribing with lunch meat was required) butt into the Dog Run. Our other dog at the time was our sweet Jack. Jack had recently developed a bulging vertebrae that was causing him to have tremors in his back legs and some instability, and so couldn’t have gone either. (Jack’s condition was caused by a congenital defect that worsened with maturity, and eventually caused complete paralysis of his back legs. We only had him a year and had to have him put to sleep when he was only three, but he was a good, sweet, wonderful member of our family.) So, I set off alone, to the tune of mournful howling dogs, wearing an orange vest, reflector tape, and carrying mace. My husband (second husband) didn’t like it when I jogged during hunting season because there WERE strangers who would come in to hunt. I argued that they were strangers, yes, but to be hunting on our neighbor’s property I would think the neighbors would know who they were…

The first long leg of my jog was up Asper Hill. Back then I could jog the whole thing. It may not have been pretty and involved panting and sweating, but once I made it to the top I always turned around and jogged backwards for a few paces to enjoy the view. From the top of Asper Hill I could see The Big Buffalo mountain in Newport, seven miles away. I could see Middle Ridge, the next big ridge south of me, and see several lesser ridges with the sun just angling to catch the first leaf changes in an amber glow. As I headed over the top and started down to the plateau on the other side, I smelled woodsmoke as someone burned a pile of brush. The plateau is always one of my favorite places. Secluded, the corn, wheat, and soy fields often have feeding deer, wild turkeys coming up to the high land to roost, a fat groundhog that fed by the roadside, and a fox I had seen four or five times. I headed down into the first small hollow, where a few weeks ago I had seen a magnificent eight point buck standing on the edge of the woods, and took a left onto Buckwheat Rd. This part of my jogging loop has the most traffic and is bordered by houses and corn fields. As I was jogging along I heard a truck that needed some muffler work coming up the road behind me. I got way over to the side of the road. People on Buckwheat tend to drive way too fast. The truck slowed behind me and then came up beside me. I was used to people asking directions, neighbors stopping to rib me a little and tell me to jog faster, so I looked over at the occupants of the truck anticipating a pleasant little break.

Talk about Perry County scary. I live in a county that is still very much rural Pennsylvania and gets a lot of redneck and hillbilly jokes, and some of them are deserved. It’s also a county that has more than its share of artists, musicians, poets, artisans, and intelligent, literate, creative people who still have all their teeth, but the two men I found myself looking at were not examples of the latter. The first thing I noticed through the open window was the smell. A combination of very old sweat and beer fumes was radiating out of the truck. A lot of hunters will hang their hunting clothes outside to get rid of “human” smells. These guys had may have been hanging their clothes outside but if so, had neglected to ever wash them, ever. It was a mossy oak patterned fugue. Archery season was in , but these guys had rifles sitting on the floor and resting on the bench seat in between them. The driver had a few weeks worth of beard that was stained with tobacco juice. He spat out the window, just missing my shoes, and gave me a glimpse of a few yellow teeth, a few brown teeth, and lots of spaces where there SHOULD have been teeth. He backhanded off the tobacco juice that dripped into his scruff, missing most of it, and said, “What you runnin’ from there, missy?” The other guy, younger, long really greasy hair, muscular arms (he had the top of his camouflaged hunting coverall around his waist to show a ripped and stained t-shirt with the sleeves and neck cut out) and a big beer belly. I could see tufts of belly hair straining out of the rips in the shirt. This guy giggled (a nasty little sound) took a swig of beer from the can he had between his legs, backhanded the dribbled beer from his two or three day shadowed face, and repeated, “runnin’ from, he he he.” I would have, had I been a man, been hearing the theme from “Deliverance”. As it was, I felt the sweat trickling down my back become cold, and my mind start to whirl furiously with thoughts. Like, that they didn’t have a scrap of required hunter orange anywhere about them. Poachers. I don’t have much of a problem with food hunters out of season, although the government differs from me on that point, but I just didn’t have that feeling about these guys. The back of the old sea green, primer, and rust colored pickup was full of beer cans. I also thought that I don’t know them, I don’t have my dog, it’s nearly dark, and the next stretch of my loop is very isolated. I’m also calculating the best place to jump off the road and run if I need to, figuring that I am in good shape, they obviously aren’t, I know this area and the people who live here, and it’s nearly dark. I could get rid of the orange reflective vest as I ran and disappear in the woods in seconds. I’m also thinking, that might just be something that only works in movies.

Well, just them a car came along that DID have a couple of neighbors in it. They stopped to chat and my buddies in the truck moved on. The neighbors moved on too and I started jogging again. As I headed down a little hill before I made the next turn on to Knisely Hill road, I saw, around the next bend, pulled off into a field access road, the sea green truck. “Crap!”, I thought. To turn back or bypass Knisely Hill would mean several miles of jogging in the full dark. I also had to work that night and would be late. I said a little prayer and turned on Knisely. About that time I heard paw pads behind me. They were just there all at once, but I did have other things on my mind at the moment and figured I just didn’t notice. Lots of the neighbor’s dogs would come up and greet me as I jogged, but usually with a lot of barking and fuss about it. This dog was silent. I had had my hand on the mace ever since my conversation with the cretins and I turned. Trotting behind me was one of the biggest dogs I’d ever seen, and not one I recognized. He had red fur like an Irish setter, but a big woolly head and deep barreled chest like a Newfoundland. He wagged his tail, mouth open and panting, and I relaxed a little. “Hey boy”, I said. I put out my hand, palm up, in case he wanted to sniff me and be petted but he kept just out of reach. So, I started jogging again and he passed me and started loping in front of me. I talked to him, and he would turn his head and perk his ears up to listen. I was so distracted by this big, beautiful, shaggy stranger that I forgot momentarily my other not so beautiful shaggy strangers until I realized we were going by their truck. The doors opened and the younger guy got out. The driver had one foot on the ground and stood, leaning against the door. Both had beers. “Hey Missy, why doncha come talk a bit?” “He he he, yeah, come talk?” “Aw come on, we’ll give you a beer.” “Yeah, beer.” The younger guy took a few steps away form the truck and I got the impression he was either going to urinate or expose himself right there in front of me. Just then the big red dog crossed over to their side of the road. “Holy crap, lady, where’d you get the DOG!” Young guy backed slowly back to the truck and stood behind the open door. I jogged desperately on, hearing the dog’s paws behind me. Then I heard the truck start up, pull out, and turn (thank you Lord) in the opposite direction. As the sound of the un-muffled exhaust faded away I turned back to my protector, thinking that if he followed me home he was going to get the biggest, juiciest hamburger I could make before I tried to find his owners. There was NOTHING there! Now, it had only been seconds since the creeps had driven away and I had been hearing footpads behind me. I was jogging along a field of soybeans. Even though they hadn’t been harvested the dog was way bigger than they were. Even though it was now dusk, I could see clearly for some distance in all directions as I circled around looking for him. I called, “Hey, dog, red boy.” He was just gone as quickly as he had appeared.

Did I have an angel? Was he a ghost? I asked around over the next several days, thinking maybe someone had guests up to hunt who had brought their dog. I also asked about the sea green truck. And, I changed my jogging times and course for awhile. Sometimes when you need a little miracle, you get one. There have been two or three other times since, when I have been out walking, that I have THOUGHT I heard footpads behind me. Once I was so sure of it I put out my hand in back of me expecting a friendly lick. Nothing. I almost expect to hear a story one day about a big red dog that some old farmer owned generations ago…

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Ghost Story

September 16, 2008 at 6:39 am (Ghost, Hobbies, Stories, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

Today was a gem of a day. We went to bed expecting rain and wind, and got up to blue skies decorated with clouds in amusing shapes (Sammy has seen a kneeling cherub, Abraham Lincoln, and the bearded face of God, I’ve seen a humpbacked whale with its baby, a plucked chicken, and a fat deep sea diver.) Kind of gives you a perspective on our personalities. It’s been a day of reflection and deep laziness as tomorrow is my birthday! The last year of my forties decade, don’t you know. That’s okay, I’m ready for 50 next year. I like who I am, where I am, what I do, and for the most part, what the future seems to hold. Not bad for half my life. I joke that I know I’m going to live to be 103. I based a poem, “When Lydia Was Ten” on this proposed long, long life. We’ll see…

(Brother John here… Speaking of poems… The Beekeeper’s Promise is now in Eydie and Sammy’s poetry section!).

At the moment Sammy is mowing and I am checking out his fine self on the mower. Sky blue bandanna wrapped around his head and all. Our property starts at an elevation of about 200 feet above sea level and rears up to 800 feet at the top. The roughly two acres that we mow include some fairly steep inclines. Mowing on the riding mower requires a knowledge of physics and a lot of guts. I watch Sammy throw his weight from one side of the mower to the other to counter balance the tilt. At a few points he has to literally stand on one side of the mower so it doesn’t tip over. I don’t mow with the riding mower. I am sore afraid. During the years that I was a widow lady living here alone I push mowed the whole damn yard. Not often, understand, and not well. I had waist high yard in places that could have been cut for animal fodder. (Good for bees though…)

Yesterday was another good day of this vacation. We got a load of wood cut and stacked in the woodshed even though the day was again hot and sticky. I worked on my poetry book (my friend Tony had been over to give me computer advice to get things into publishable form) and started looking through the hundreds of photo CD’s that Sammy has taken. The book will also feature his photo art.

I’ve been thinking my September thoughts of arts and crafts. There are quite a few things that I enjoy doing but put aside for the busy summer months. I often make grapevine wreaths using seed pods, ornamental grasses, pine cones, and wild grapevine I collect. I knit quite well, our Granny saw to that, and I make scarves, purses, baby afghans, hats, and the like. I got interested in making jewelry since I rarely leave the house without earrings. At this point I can’t call it a “talent”, I have to settle for “craft” because all I do is buy beads I like, or buy jewelry at flea markets and garage sales and take it apart to make into something else, and just assemble the lot. But it’s fun and I get as many new earrings as I want! This year I made some Christmas ornaments from bead and sequin kits I bought. I have the beads to make my own designs, but I found that finding the satin balls is difficult out of season. And, I indulged myself in a rather “tacky” latch-hook rug for Christmas. Such a soothing craft.

(Brother John here… Eydie and Sammy have added an Arts and Crafts section to their site. It’s very rough right now but will evolve as I have time to format and shape it).

One last thought before I turn my mind toward supper and going through pictures and yet another poem that occupies my brain cells. Brother John will appreciate this. I know it isn’t the Halloween and ghost season yet, and I have several other ghost stories to tell as THAT season approaches, but I’m sure Brother John remembers Betsy. When we were kids we lived with mom and dad in an old brick house in Fawn Grove, PA. Brother John always said the house was haunted, and perhaps he’ll want to add his own stories which are probably far better than mine, but… One night, when I was about six or seven, I had gone to bed. I slept in part of a duo of rooms that would have once been the children’s room and the nanny’s room. Just an archway in between, no door. My room had a doorway to the attic hall, and a doorway to the old nanny’s room. There was a grate in the floor to allow what little heat there was to come up to my room in the winter, and also to allow me to hear the voices of the grownups downstairs after I had gone to bed. It was a warm night. Back in those days I had long, thick, heavy, curly hair that hung down way past my shoulders. Don’t think because I had nice hair that I was a beauty or anything. I was fat and geekish and about as unattractive a child as you can imagine. Well, my hair was heavy, and in the summer it would get hot so I would fling it over the side of the bed and sleep that way. I had heard my brother tell stories of Betsy (and he should tell the stories HERE), but I had never seen or heard anything I could attribute to her. (Like I said, other stories for other times) But on this night, I could hear mom and dad and some of the uncles playing cards downstairs and hear Brother John’s music from down the hall and his room. (Not pertinent to this story, but Black Oak Arkansas as I remember.) I think I was awake. I suddenly felt a small tug on my hair. I was immediately frozen motionless, my head still, my hair still over the side of the bed, and I began to feel hands finger combing my hair, including a few sharp tugs. (I never combed my hair after that first hurried brushing in the morning.) Then, hands, and they felt like small hands, began braiding my hair. I heard someone humming a tune, one I didn’t know but was able to pick out on my fiddle the next day. I can’t describe it better than to say that the hands felt real, but the humming felt like it was coming from someplace else. The attic, my brother’s room, my parents room, the summer kitchen down below. I don’t know. I kept my neck in that panic stricken position until I really did fall asleep. In the morning, of course, my hair was still in the wild disarray it had been when I went to bed. I discounted the whole thing as a dream. Until, of course, a day or so later, when my brother John said, matter of factly, “Betsy says she likes your hair.”

(Brother John here… Our next door neighbor, back in those days, told me of a woman who had lived in our house long ago. It was a sad tale because the woman had been found hanged in what would later be our upstairs attic). After some reflection, my elderly next door neighbor recalled the poor womans name. When she said: “It was Betsy as I recall”, I literally felt chills going up and down my spine).

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