Monday, November 13, 2017

Moving day--or days

People relocate all the time. Sometimes across the street, other times across a state, a country, or anywhere in the world. When these people move, they take with them their worldly belongings.

Thus the need for “relocation services” that come into your home and go through it room by room with boxes, paper and tape, dismantling, wrapping and packing up every item in sight. The “relocators” are fast, efficient and perform a service much in demand.

During the last few days, as I help a family member with the “other end” of all that wrapping and packing, I’ve had plenty of time to think. I’ve been blown away by the mounds of cardboard and paper that remain when the objects it cared for during transport have been released back into the world. How many trees did it take to produce all this packaging? And what to do with it now? The wrappings get stuffed back into the boxes it came from, in hopes that there’s someone close by who is about to move and will be able to make use of them.

Let me tell you, it is taking a village, or at least a conglomeration of shirt-tail relatives, to get this particular outfit settled into a new house. By the end of day two in the unpacking process, the garage is full of wrapping paper, strips of cardboard, and boxes piled nearly to the ceiling. The debris, stacked up on the front porch as well, in a pile so high that should a wind come by (almost a given in Wyoming) the neighbors would not be happy. So more paper and boxes got stuffed into the garage.

At first, the idea of unpacking is exciting. It’s kind of like Christmas, opening box and after box, and tightly wrapped little package after package. But then, the thrill wears thin.

It’s a relief it is to learn that it’s possible to go to Facebook Marketplace and offer all those papers and boxes to some poor soul that is gearing up to “relocate.”

In a few days or maybe weeks, the unpacking will be finished. No one will be anxious to repeat the process any time soon.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Abby's first marathon

More than 50,000 people are nursing sore muscles this morning. They’re the ones who ran 26.2 miles through New York’s five boroughs during the 47th running of the New York Marathon yesterday, November 5, 2017.

The event began in 1970 when, of 127 entrants on a course entirely in Central Park, 55 men finished and the sole woman dropped out. Entry fee was $1 and the entire budget for the race was $1,000. 

The now iconic race has blossomed into a mammoth exercise in community spirit and a symbol of hope and renewal. It was held less than two months after the 9/11 attacks and this year following another tragic event that caused an increased police presence throughout the race. The only time the race was cancelled was in 2012 because of Hurricane Sandy. That year runners showed their support by running together in Central Park.

Among those resting up today after their “long run” is my 24-year-old granddaughter, Abby, who finished her first marathon with a smile on her face and surrounded by a gaggle of her cousins who had come to cheer her on. She had never run more than 17 miles at a time before, but yesterday she chalked up more than 26 miles, no problem.

I was there when she was born, when a goofed-up ultra sound had predicted a boy. She and I did one of her very first runs—all of 20 minutes—around a nearby lake. She has come a long way, baby, and who knows where all she may go!

Monday, October 30, 2017

White Shadow comes to life

It started off as a story that haunted me and wouldn’t let go. I learned about the life of Janet Rae Johnson Mondlane when I spent the best part of a year in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique in sub-Saharan East Africa, more than a decade ago.

While I was there, and as a way to make the most of my stay, I did several things. I substitute taught at the American School. I tutored a few graduate students in English. And every week I sought out an adventure and took photos to share with people back home on a website called Come to Africa with Me. It was intended for elementary children, but I think some older people read it as well.

Formerly known as Portuguese East Africa, Mozambique, a beautiful country with 1,500 miles of coastline on the Indian Ocean, was a colony of Portugal for 500 years. To say that the native people were taken advantage of is a blatant understatement. But that’s another story. It was in the course of researching the country’s raw and recent history that I learned about the lives of Janet and Eduardo Mondlane.

During the 1960’s, a tide of revolution swept the African continent. Some countries went to war and some colonizers saw the handwriting on the wall and gave up their ill-gotten land. Portugal was one of the last countries to give up their colony and that didn’t happen until 1975 following a 10-year guerilla war effort.

All that is background for the story of a 17-year-old American girl who fell irrevocably in love with a 31-year-old Mozambican with a revolution in his future. White Shadow is the story of Janet’s lifelong love affair and the ways in which it affected the rest of her life.

White Shadow is available at Amazon and locally in Loveland at Whampus Books and Fort Collins at Trimble Court Artisans.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Elephant talk

I’ve been wondering what the world might be like if human beings were mute.  If none of us had the ability to speak—ever—to anyone. If none of us could communicate with each other by the spoken word because there was no such thing. What a shattering loss. In many ways, yes. But in others, really?

I’m probably doing this wondering because I just finished reading The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony. In it the author, a conservationist, writes of his hard-won, intimate relationship with a herd of rogue elephants. He took nine of them into his South African game reserve to save them from being shot.

Slowly, slowly, he began the difficult task of befriending them while preserving their wildness. In the process, he and the elephants discovered ways to communicate with each other. When he was with them, he did use language, which he knew that on one level they could not understand. But it was not his words that began to break down barriers and lessen the animals’ fear of him. It was his tone of voice, its softness, warmth and emotional quality that the elephants responded to.  They came to realize that Anthony cared about them and their welfare and that they were safe in his presence.

The elephants began using their trunks to respond to him—by gently touching him.  After a rough start when the animals escaped their temporary enclosure and went stomping wildly through the bush, they eventually got to the point where they sought out Anthony to interact with him. He describes being covered with “elephant slime” from their touch and loving it. After he’d been around them for a while, he realized that they could communicate with each other through stomach rumblings. The day after he died, they emerged from months in the bush and showed up at his home. On the one-year anniversary of his death, they did the same.

What if, on the local, national and international stage, those in power were unable to speak.? What if they had no verbal tools with which to express themselves—to argue, to insist, to insult? If all they were able to do was to communicate with each other by gentle touch and the rumblings of their intestines.

What if? I was just wondering.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

White Shadow comes to life

It’s been a long time coming, but today my work of historical fiction, White Shadow, Godmother to a Revolution became available on Amazon and will soon be available locally.  It is a story that has been haunting me since I learned about the life of Janet Mondlane during a stay in Mozambique in East Africa more than a decade ago. I first wrote it as non-fiction, then fleshed out some details and converted it to historical fiction.

When I first learned that my daughter and her family were moving to Mozambique, I had to search out a map of Africa to see where it was. It is a beautiful country with 1,500 miles of coastline on the Indian Ocean that lived under Portuguese domination for 500 years. After a decade of armed struggle, the country became independent in 1975.

White Shadow is the story of a life-long love affair that began between a young white woman with a year of high school to complete and a 31-year-old black man with a revolutionary mission.

Fiction does not come easily for me. I learned a whole lot in the course of writing this book and received invaluable help from members of my writers’ group and friends willing to give me feedback.

If you should decide to read it, and if you feel it to be worthwhile, perhaps you would be willing to tell one friend about it.

Here's a few words to give you a flavor of the book:

 She was overcome with the sense that she'd known him in another time, that somehow she was drawing this dark man toward her. Janet fell in love when she heard Eduardo Mondlane speak at a church camp in 1951. The relationship was to define the rest of her life. The agony of racial discrimination, alienation from family, the pain of separation, the fear of betrayal and even death--none of these could derai a love that just is--like the love of a child, a lover, a grandmother--the beginning and the end. With Eduardo she went halfway round the world to fight for the independence of Mozambique. White Shadow is the story of her unsung role in a brutal ten-year war effort with all its victories and defeats, moment of despair and joy.