Monday, September 19, 2011

9/19/2011~Mon

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Too many exits
unplanned unresolved,
no answers,
no cure
to the anguish involved,
the pathways
elusive,
still waiting to know
the boundaries
and thorns of
the ways that we go,
and all of the pieces,
the patches
and lace,
the guessing,
the quaking,
the hoping for grace,
the magic,
it fell in
the angles of night,
eluding
forgiveness,
the veils
and the blight,
so seeping about
in the ripples of mirrors,
a thousand
deep oceans
we made of our tears,
and whispers will
never
reveal to this pain,
or flow in the alleys
and hours they stain,
no ribbons
no trophies
rewarding our cries,
just shadows
and dreams
caught in
translucent lies,
the aching
too heavy,
the questions
too deep,
they poison
the sun
and they stipple
our sleep,
all satin
and greening,
they tempt ever on,
we lay them,
their stoning,
where wishes have gone.
JMS ~ 5/12/2011


* * *
I am aware that this may be a repeat of this image here, but it melds with my day and pulls at me to consider it a bit more.  I see flags and birds in it.   Fall has begun poking at us, pushing into the summer we have yet to get here in MN.  Is it (Fall) mocking us?  

This vivid and speckled, with delicate mystery, image seems a metaphor of things of late.  Lots of things, issues and vivid stuff flitting about and into the ionosphere of daily winds. For some reason I have yet to figure out, it has beckoned at me for several days now. It makes me want to just hold still and meditate, feel its power and message, whatever that is. It feels so good, so robust and lively, yet elusively mystical and provocative. 'Nuff said.
JMS~9/19/11



Monday, August 8, 2011

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* * * * *
On the Move to Dayton's Bluff ~ April 2010


~perfect~A2

I remember ~ 8/8/11

Boo
Still the blackness,
gone delight,
velvet missing,
tender, slight,
where have you,
my gentle friend,
faded on,
tho' I’d pretend
that night and night
and aching day
now to know
you’ve gone away –
No more snuggle,
sweetest bliss,
compliment,
your sparing kiss,
gentle, gentle,
snuffling,
waking to
this velvet thing.
JMS ~ 2010

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August 2011 ~ 8/6/11 ~ Tapestry


Through the fabric
needles flow,
forming patterns,
slow by slow,
golden, flashing,
aching hue,
colors streaming
as they do,
weaving stories,
edging there,
gloss and graces
skim the air,
sharp and glinting
diamonds dance,
pirouetting
all askance,
forming patterns,
slow by slow,
piercing through
each velvet flow,
celebrations,
telling so -
JMS ~ 2010




Saturday, February 26, 2011

Some allergen free ideas ~ 2/26/2011

1.
Want a quick pizza crust.   Make a batch of your favorite pancake batter.   Oil a sheet cake pan or a round 12+ " nonstick pan (I use Cooks' Essentials from QVC - - their 12" hardcoat enamel everyday pan) - - Pour enough batter to make a 1/4" pancake. using a spatula to level and spread the dough.   Bake in 350 degree oven until top appears dry.   (If desired, at this point you can flip this over or just put your pizza sauce on top.  Sprinkle "cheese" of your choice - - I recommend Lisanatti Mozzarella (almond) cheese.  Then bake another 15-20 minutes.  

2. 
For "Upside Down Pizza" make the pizza sauce in a large round pan - - again I suggest  Cooks' Essentials from QVC - - their 12" hardvcoat enamel everyday pan/ or a hardcoat enamel one - - When the sauce is ready, sprinkle with cheese.  Pour a thin layer of the pancake batter over all, spread, and bake 350 degrees, 20 min or until the crust is done. 

3. 
Make your pizza sauce.  Toast slices of allergen free bread - - I recommend Ener-G Foods Tapioca Bread - - then lay slices of cheese on the hot toast and top with the prepared pizza sauce.


4.
Pizza sauce w/or w/o meat:
1/2-1 # ground beef
3 T. ground Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp EACH onion powder, garlic powder, salt,
1/4 tsp EACH cayenne, black pepper
1/3 C. water. 

Put the meat, seasonings and water in a large (3 at. pan.) break up the meat and mix in the spices.   Cook and stir over med heat until the meat is just cooked.

Add:
1 (12 oz.) can tomato paste
1 can green ripe olives AND juice

Stir in to  mix well, then cover. bring to bubbling and then lower the heat and simmer on LOW for 20 mins.  After ten minutes, add 2 T. basil. Stir in and continue cooking.



To make meatless:
put the tomato sauce and olives in a pan and add the spices.  Bring to bubbling, then lower heat and simmer 20 mins.  After ten minutes, add 2 T. basil.  Stir in and continue cooking.


Don't be afraid to experiment.   Think in terms of what do you want and how can you get that using allergen free ingredients. 

I use Hellman's Canola Mayo for sour cream,. sour milk (mix a little 2 T or so to 1/2 C. Mayo) almond or coconut milk in with it for that and 1/2 tsp AC vinegar) buttermilk, etc.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Boom Boom Malle ~ In Loving Memory -11/19/09 ~ (12/19/09)


I am sad to report the loss of Boo on 11/19/09.  He was very old, in his 90's in dogger years, and he will be missed deeply.  He was sweet and full of smiles and fun, once grabbing my hand and pulling it and the plate of chocolate cake I was holding over to his mouth.  He loved chocolate and popcorn, fried chicken and liver and onions.   I would fry up a pound of liver for him on occasion and he was thrilled.  He loved every other creature - - human and animal - - that he came into contact with.  He was a wonderful friend, my baby, and my companion.  He was ill for a long time and my hopes of him getting better did not come to fruition. He was so full of life, even as he was declining.  Such a sweetie.   


JMS ~ 2009


* * * * *
Heavy this, a muddied bliss,
the tables bow in pain,
and in that place, no kindness, grace,
just a long and bleary stain
settled from some anguished grain.
JMS 12/5/09

Monday, October 19, 2009

10.19.09 ~ An EXCITING New Site!

I have found a wonderfully fun new site. It is a site in Louisiana dedicated to gluten free Cajun, etc., and it seems to be loaded with all manner of fun options. I hope you will take a look at it. Having multiple food allergies, I was getting bored with the routine sites and their compromising on recipes. I also wanted some exciting new recipes to take a look at. I was thrilled when I wandered into this site via a google link with my emails. Treat yourself to this new site:


N.O. Gluten Warrior ~ "Living Gluten Free with a New Orleans Outlook."
GF recipes, restaurant guide, info, product reviews, GF store, & forum.
http://www.noglutenwarrior.com/

Please check out the link.  Great site!







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Monday, August 24, 2009

8.24.09 ~ Poor Henry


Poor Henry
* * *
What Henry 'et,
he won't forget,
it made his belly hurt,
but Henry, he
was said to be
just playing in the dirt,
his cheeks were gray,
but this, they say
was from the muddy lake
his sister made,
while Henry played,
and she made him a cake,
she told him it
was just a bit
of cinder, earth and green
and Henry thought
for sure he got
just all that he had seen,
but she was wise,
and to surprise
poor Henry in his gift,
she thought if she
could add some glee
then Henry'd get a lift,
so in she placed
so gently laced
some ants, and spiders too
it made some bumps,
some crunchy lumps
some texture in the goo,
and as they set
poor Henry 'et
her cake so tender, when,
and then he knew
his insides too
they crawled about in him,
so to the doc
poor Henry walked
this effort to atone,
his sister hid
for what she did,
poor Henry went alone.
and as he cried
and as he tried
to tell the tale there,
his words, they crawled
and Henry bawled,
about the whole affair;
but Henry now,
his sister, how,
they both remember this,
that awful cake
that she would make
that ended daytime bliss.
and when they play
about the day
she makes him "salad things"
in kitchens where
their mom is there
to check the seasonings.
2009 ~ JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

8.18.09 ~ CMpart192-SG ~ Forgotten Birds

CMpart192-SG
* * * * *
Forgotten Birds
* * *
We are nothing to our children,
old and useless,
used up by them -- by their youth,
edged aside by society,
of no worth even to ourselves,
we are birds
- - hearts and minds still soaring - -
wing-battered
on the rocks and sands of the day,
and all would prefer
if we'd just go away.
2009 ~ JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

8.11.09 ~ For Julieps! ~ VSA01CM30-sg.jpg

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* * * * *

This is for Julieps, who will see the nutzy irony and humor of it.

In my struggles to get samples, I had used up all my MC product without getting anything to read. In my need to check, & being out of the regular (though difficult) product, my only choice was to learn and to try the S-Clix, which I did and had a minor bit of success with it (147). Then, when I went to remove the lancet, which was being very difficult, I inadvertantly poked the very side of my finger that one is advised to do -- (if brave enough, which I am NOTORIOUSLY NOT!)-- only to get an absolute gusher - (141)!!!


Monday, July 27, 2009

7.27.09 ~ V02CM12~a.jpg ~ On Learning of Mark's Passing

* * * * *
On the sad news of the passing of Mark Yannone on July 17 2009:

Mark will be deeply missed by many people.
His rousing and passionate postings on the
Amazon.com Health forum spurred many a
spirited discussion, and Mark took it all in stride.
He quickly formed alliances and commanded respect,
whether one agreed with his views or not.
He was a gentle charmer of the most
magical kind and he will be sorely missed.
It was at his encouragement
and
with his helpful guidance
that I formed
and
shaped this blog.
I wish the most gracious of
days to his family
and soothing moments in their most difficult times.
JMS ~ 7.27.09

Saturday, July 25, 2009

7.25.09 ~ Stones_071909-1k1-Fr-SG 2.jpg

* * * * *
Once a blossom
bloomed to be
promises
for you and me,
then the ivy,
vining there
seeped aspersions
to the air,
cast and stated
to a stone,
forcing us
to be alone,
all the thorns,
they cut the grace,
shredded all
the lovely lace
and filled it all
with empty space -
2009 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

7.22.09 ~ goldw7u0-A.jpg

7.22.09
My brain in computerland --------->
* * * * *
My lack of technological skill is legendary and a family joke of many years and laughs.

I need books simpler than the "Dummies" guide to help me work the computer.

In fact, I'm so technologically-challenged that when I used a facebook link sent by her to respond to my friend Julieps yesterday, I ended up adopting a horse and a puppy but never figured out how to respond to her.

So, if she see's this, I most humbly beg forgiveness.

JMS ~ 2009 {JOY in the arts!}

Friday, July 17, 2009

7.17.09 ~ Joey & Bear come to visit / Boo looking for dinner









Looking For Sugar
* * * * *
Quiet here -
Where have you been?
The leaves miss you,
the crows chattered
calling your name to me -
"Tell him come party!"
They know
and they try to help -
'Perhaps she will smile,
or look back
and see his warm fun.'
Where have you been?
Perhaps
we won't discuss this
for now -
1995 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts! From: Sugar

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

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Lucien

* * * * *
When did winter
saunter in
whisking summer
off, away,
tragic day -
when did summer
wander off
fade away,
tragic day,
will the music,
ever magic,
ease away
this awful
tragic?
2009 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!

7.14.09 ~ CM121205-1h-CMPart~-Fr-Sg.jpg


Drizzly grey,
rainy day,
fall begins
its early way,
summer not yet
here to stay.
Catch the clover,
turn it over,
wishing on
some long-gone
rover,
trails linger
in his past,
knew this never
there could last,
honey-voiced,
golden echo,
through the years,
his shadows grow,
lyrics ring,
everything,
still his magic
all too tragic.
2009 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!

7.13.09 ~ CM090601-c4-z-CMPart~Fr-Sg.jpg ~ Julie/Bruce

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Lilac bloom,
weed or flower
dandelion,
of the hour,
violet,
lily, rose,
vining pretty
where it grows,
all the magic
standing there,
proud and happy
to the air,
morning glory,
daffodil,
sun is shining
as it will,
brick and cinder,
there to climb,
hold the pose
of breathless rhyme,
as the garden
dances, played,
charming all
in proud parade.
2009 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

7.12.09 ~ CM061805-1p-CMPart~Fr-Sg

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7.12.09 ~ For Goran ~ CM041405-2n-CMpart~Fr-Sg.jpg

For Goran

* * * * *

Sleep gone,
this night, oppressive,
smears the chance to rest,
it's been too long,
the soft and comfort
gone, too long, gone,
the prairies and the breeze,
the easy trees,
the dreams and fortunes,
cast into the mix of all,
this magic seeped
somewhere away from me,
it used to be
so ready at the there
so easy in the air,
but long, so long,
it let it's go of me,
left me in this
greying void,
these granite walls,
chips and cinders,
they itch and scratch.
abrade my mind,
bruise the deepest
valleys of my weary soul,
stain their awful pain
upon my heart,
damn tattoo!
engraved into the mists,
the shadows and echoes
of what could be -
of what might have been.
and I am still here,
still aching
for someone to love me,
someone to transport me,
to let me transport them,
but my life, as it is,
as it never was,
is long over and
soon approaching that lake,
that deep, dark lake,
that we all seep into
as we are forgotten,
blamed,
and finally shamed into it.
2009 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

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* * *

Here into this staring night
hours, eagles, taking flight,
crossing moonbeams in the trail,
racing through each lofting veil,
hearts and wings, they beat a tone,
soaring over ray and stone,
to the magic seeping there,
on into the thickened air,
poetry and rhythms live
in the spaces that they give,
while wondrous eyes will capture and
work to paste them to the land,
in memory and childish play,
all the stories find a way,
echoing the eons shifts,
fluffing into patient drifts,
the history, it has to be
retold, retold, quite patiently,
impressing to an aural book
the pages that the ages took,
imprinted to the magic gates,
to settle where each pathway waits,
to score and etch in every place
the tales and wishes of each grace.
2009 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

7.01.09 ~ The Irish Well ~ CM060505-1k-CMpart~-Fr-Sg-REV-6in~W a.jpg

THE IRISH WELL
Struggle words
to seal this oath,
remembered or prophetic -
some would speak
of poetry,
and some would so
pathetic -
What the chance
the mind would take
to let the lion loose,
and tell a tale
of weeping grace,
or anguished stride
or ruse - So,
tender tongued
or scraping strut
may seek expressions floor -
though some may come
as arrogance,
so many come as more -

NOTE: The Irish Well was a bar and restaurant located on the corner of University and Prior Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota, which hosted an open stage and a supportive atmosphere for local talent in a variety of mediums and pursuits.
1995 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!

7.01.09 ~ CM040507-b-CMpart~-Fr-Sg.jpg



Ever cinder,
the pebbles of midnight
press, granite and sand,
to my heart - - still my breathing - -
shattered echoes,
these stones and tones
bruise the hours,
minutes and years
of unspent tears - -
No oceans to well over,
flood this earth,
they slosh in my mind,
abrading
to fossils
the dreams that once
soared - -
all stored
in foolish
ecstasy - - me.
2009 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!

Monday, June 29, 2009

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Web and shadow,
sugared dream,
this deep and fragile night
calms the hope, precarious,
and doubles in its' might -
Long ago the echoes cried
and clung amidst the dew,
walking close to charm the sun
and breathe, my love, in you -
But episodic, transitory,
memories depart
and sailed away unknown, alone,
the wishes of the heart.
1994 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!

6.29.09 ~ CMpart129-Fr-Sg A.jpg


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Brother Dino ~ 6.25.09 ~ CMpart365-Fr-Sg.jpg


Brother (Dino)
Did the sunshine take a rest
knowing you were at the crest,
did the robins stop their song,
knowing you would be along,
and the flowers stunt and stay
abed for yet another day?
Soon we'd lose you, did they know,
graying at the slightest show
(we will miss you, miss you so - )
time too short, I wanted more,
now that you were here, ashore,
from your posts and sailing trails,
from the times, the space and veils,
such a vital force are you,
deepest shades and brightest hue,
how we loved you, golden one,
gone and off, now, to the Sun.
JMS ~ 3/28/09

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6.25.09 ~ Ruta ~ CMpart369-Fr-Sg2.jpg


Ruta
by
JM Shephard

The plump, slightly disheveled blonde woman made facial contact with the other riders on the bus. Facial contact was all that was possible because, the woman was not only blind; she quite literally had no eyes. The empty sockets dipped down into her face, yet the curves were so abruptly soft that she looked more angelic than grotesque. This fact aside, she knew where the others on the bus were, and moved her face in their varied directions as the bus pulled out of the shopping center.

In the midst of such finality, her calm was stunning. Her mouth rested in a slight pinch, as though she were reviewing her day and planning her evening. Her posture revealed no trace of past screaming tirades of agony at her loss, if it was, indeed, a loss - or perhaps it was something she had always known, possibly been born with. It appeared, though, as if her eyes had been plucked from her in some terrible surgery. A thin scar underlined each socket, deftly underscoring the possibility that someday she might have the chance to have eyes again.

Tonight she is going to brush her hair. Fifty strokes in each direction, letting it fall across her hands as she guides the brush sensually through the fine golden-white strands. Each stroke will tell her an answer, a mystery, a dream, and she will let herself languish in the warm safety of this soothing ritual. It is one of the few treasures she allows herself. She is really quite a practical person and her time is taken up with the necessities that guide her survival. But, she loves to brush her hair and dream. In her head, the most beautiful dances flow. Her mind oozes colors that saturate through her, painting her with the scenes of her dances. Sometimes there are bluish white snowflakes that swirl about. At others the red stillness charts a large square about her. But, the best is when the rainbow descends in scintillating kaleidoscopes that weave and sway themselves into the very pores and fibers of her soul. She feels like satin then, and she brushes her hair.....

1993 ~ Ruta JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!

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Friday, June 19, 2009

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THE MINISTER'S WIFE ~ CM051406-1t-5b-CMPart~-Fr-Sg~W.jpg


THE MINISTER'S WIFE
by
JM Shephard

"I want to tell you about my wife - what a wonderful woman she is!"
Pastor Jerry Wright raised his arms in emphasis and swept his eyes over the congregation. In the back of the church he quickly found the focus he was searching for, quietly taking note of the young woman standing there.
"Oh, how I miss this goddess I have married," he wailed in a tortured whine. His face contorted in a look of extreme agony and then, in a dramatic transition, he smiled glowingly and continued, "But, God has sent me here to speak to you, to testify about that most luscious of creatures that He saw fit to bring to me. To me!" He emphasized this last statement by throwing his hands up toward the heavens and dancing in mock jubilation.
"I love you, Laura!" he shouted in delight. But all the while he kept check on the young woman at the back of the church.
Through the next hour and a half he entertained the crowd with the vivid story of his first meeting with, initial pursuit of, and eventual marriage to his wife. He enumerated her virtues and postured on his message of love, sharing, and fidelity, bringing his audience to their feet in roaring approval as he wound up his speech with shouted glorifications for love of God, their neighbors, and their spouses.
As the crowd began milling about after he'd dismissed them, he stepped from the altar and moved sociably among them. He had casually retained his study of the young woman, and began to move toward her with the nonchalance of one who was merely moving through the congregation to mingle with the parishioners. And then, when he was directly in front of her, he extended his hand in warm greeting.
"Oh, Pastor Jerry," she blurted, blushing. "It's so wonderful to hear someone speak with such love and reverence for their wife."
The minister smiled sweetly at her. "I'm sure your husband would say the same about you, Mrs......"
"Jenny," she stuck her hand out quickly and then continued shyly, "I'm not married - not yet. I'm only nineteen." The soft blush on her face grew more vivid.
Pastor Jerry took her hand and encased it in both of his. He smiled his most charming smile and patted the top of her hand. "Oh, you will be," he assured her. "You are most charming and very sweet." He patted her hand again and began to move away, then hesitated and turned back to her. "I don't suppose you'd like to meet my wife, would you? She'll be flying in later and we're going out for dinner. Would you like to join us?"
Her young eyes lit up at his invitation, and she eagerly agreed to meet with them. He wrote the name and room number of his hotel on her program, then turned back into the crowd.

At 6:00 that evening, the young woman knocked at the door to Pastor Jerry's hotel suite. When he opened the door, the minister was in obvious distress, but he motioned her inside and escorted her to a chair.
Pastor Jerry, what's wrong?" she pleaded softly.
"My wife," he wailed.
"What's wrong? Did something happen to her?"
He sunk down into his chair and covered his face with his hands. "Oh Lord, she can't make it," he cried. "And, I won't see her for another week."
He sighed deeply, then looked vacantly about the room. He appeared to be thinking - no doubt of the woman he was missing so desperately. Then he brightened a bit and looked sheepishly back at Jenny. "Would you object to joining me for dinner? We could order room service and eat here. Then I could be here for Laura's call." His eyes implored her to stay.
"Of course, I'll stay." She spoke gently, her voice offering reassurance and sympathy.
"Oh, Laura, thank you!" His smile returned and he sat beaming at her.
"Pastor Jerry, My name's not Laura. It's Jenny," she reminded him..
His smile turned to shock and he rushed to apologize. "Oh dear, I'm so sorry. Please forgive me." He shook his head as if to clear it, then chuckled slightly, the warm smile returning. "Of course, you're not Laura. I'm sorry. My wife....." He looked down, embarrassed, then brought his gaze directly back to hers.
"Actually," he stammered, "would you mind if I called you Laura? Then it would seem a bit more like she was here."
Jenny nodded and smiled shyly back at him. "That's okay. I'm sorry she couldn't make it. I was looking forward to meeting her."
"You two would like each other," he said softly. "Actually, you're very much alike." He reached out and tucked a wayward strand of her hair back from her face, then took her hand in his. Ever so gently, he eased her from her chair and pulled her close to him. "Laura, oh, Laura," he whispered softly into her hair.....
"Pastor Jerry!" Jenny pulled away in surprise.
A look of pain flashed over his face and he closed his eyes to hold back the tears that had sprung into them. "You look so much like her," he whispered. He stood stooped and ashamed, stunned at what he had just done.
Jenny reached out to him, soothing his embarrassment with a tender smile. "It's okay."
"Just let me hold you a minute, he begged softly.
This time she didn't resist. He traced his lips down her chin, then pulled her close again. "Oh, Laura," he groaned, "stay with me. I have to leave again in the morning, and I miss you so much when I'm gone." He slid his mouth over hers.....
* * * * *

"I want to tell you about my wife - what a wonderful woman she is!" Pastor Jerry Wright raised his arms in emphasis and swept his eyes over the congregation. As he spoke, his eyes moved over the crowd and came to rest on the obviously shy young woman sitting in the back pew with some of her friends.....

© 1994 The Minister's Wife ~ JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!
from White Chocolate Woman © 1984 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!

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Candles & Sticks ~ CMpart338-Fr-2-Sg~Wjms.jpg



Candles & Sticks
by
JM Shephard


My home is myself. I didn't realize that until just this past week. For years I've had recurring dreams of endlessly searching for a home - - a place where I could settle in, relax and rest, belong; a place where I could be the best of me without all the trivia and issues that bog me down and slow my tread. Then, last Wednesday, sitting at my Uncle Jerry's funeral, I realized that the only home there was for me was myself. I've had houses, but I've never felt safe in them, and they were always too easily gone. It occurred to me that my home is not some edifice of tangible construction, but rather it is made up of the people who move in to, out of and about my life.

I came to this sense, this perception, when I realized that there was a crack in my being, my sense of self, which was caused by my uncle's death. He'd always been there, part of the mortar of my life. Sitting in the church, I felt exposed, felt a chill draft flitting at me, and I realized that I'd lost a part of my foundation. A stick - part of a wall - had fallen away. I pulled myself about me, huddling into myself against the stunning revelation that opened over me as I went through the procedures of my uncle's death.

The people in my life seem to be a range or combination of sorts of candles and sticks. And, this range can be quite extensive - multi-functional. The candles are usually those whose involvement in my life is like a warm amber glow - like sun in my belly that just feels so good. These are my friends and some of my family. Some are lovers, though their presence covers more of a different range - that which I'd define as being all the way from firecrackers to duds. Candles are the expression, the "art" of our lives.

Sticks are usually foundation people - those who are part of our formation, our growing, and journey through life. They are the method, the tools - the "craft" of our lives. These are usually family, neighbors, teachers - the people who are with us through the routine and mundane, as well as some of the awful or celebratory times of our lives. Of course, sticks are also multi-functional. They may trip us up or beat us down. Those who do can be called, perhaps more appropriately, clubs.

Wednesday, I said goodbye to a stick, a part of a wall - and it hurts. There will be a gap there where he has always been. The chill is un-nerving. I have no way to patch it. My life is changing and I must move with it, even as it begins to feel a bit shredded by the rifts and cracks that chink away at me. It seems to me that no matter what the "materials" of our homes, the elements of life and nature work to maneuver and erode them, bringing us at last to ourselves. Hence we gather our candles and sticks, distant or dear, but essential to the journey and desire - - to the dream.

© 1991 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!

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THE RITUAL
by
JM Shephard


For one of my college classes, I chose to research the initiation rites of young women of a certain culture into the steps of their adult womanhood. When I arrived at the country whose culture I had chosen to study, I was paired with a guide named Helen. She was a middle-aged woman who seemed kindly and wise. Her patience was astounding - pliable and elastic; warm. Nothing seemed to upset her. She met my confusion or dismay at this new culture with a sturdy, but warm arm around my shoulders. She would hug me for a moment, and then release me and smile. She had a way of looking down that was both humble and respectful, but did not usurp her own presence as a woman of strength, purpose and authority in her field. She was a guide. That was considered an honor in her country.

For the initiation sequence, I was taken to a small house in the center of an isolated village. Outside the village there was dry golden-brown desert that stretched for miles in all directions. The house sat in the middle of a garden clump of tree's and tall grasses; an oasis of sorts, though the house itself looked like a rustic cottage more likely to be found sitting in the middle of a mid-western woods. It had a sagging front porch, and a screen door that scraped loudly against the jamb when it was opened. Once inside, I was seated on an old plush cut velvet couch. It was burgundy and dusty and sat at the far end of the house, which appeared to be one large room. Frayed mustard-colored carpeting covered the floor. The windows were hung with yellowed thick gauze curtains and scratchy old asbestos shades. A small cooking area held a stove that was covered with utensils and pots of varying sizes; across the room from the couch stood several hard wooden chairs with carved curving backs, their dark wood sticky with age. Helen took a seat on one of them.

On the wall to my right were two doors about seven feet apart. I found that curious, but said nothing. As we sat quietly, the door through which we had entered the cottage opened. A tall stocky man in a stale grey suit stepped inside. He was followed by several young women, their bowing bodies curving in on themselves from the waist. They looked old and shrunken in this position, but they moved with a sliding ease that conveyed their youth. As he approached me, the man's fiery dark eyes glinted, making laser cuts deep into my psyche. I was sure that no one would ever dare to question their flashing authority. His grey-black hair was wiry, reminding me of a scouring pad and, had his presence not been so compelling, I would have chuckled. Instead, I glanced quickly at Helen. She nodded once and looked down. He said nothing to me, instead reaching out his hand to mine and indicating for me to rise as he took it. His smile flashed rows of square white teeth - - tiny cold tiles in rigidly perfect order up and down his jaw. He held my hand warmly, tucking my arm under his with deliberate gentle force. Without a word, he led me to the door furthest from where I had been sitting.

As we approached them, the young women quickly opened both of the doors and I caught a glimpse of what lie behind them. There was a room - an alcove of sorts, rectangular and narrow. It was tiny, six or seven feet long and no more than five feet wide. There were no windows or openings on the three framing walls, only the two doors on the entrance wall. The bulk of the room was taken up by a rather large contraption that could be changed from a deep white porcelain bathtub, to a long white marble table, or a warm and lush velvety brown bed. Just how this was accomplished escaped me, but I was given view of it in all three states as we moved from the doors and walked three times silently about the room. At the foot of the contraption stood a small dark cabinet, its top level in height to the table. There were reddish-brown stains mottled about its surface, and three strange looking metal instruments lay haphazardly upon it. The man led me into the room. Three of the young women quickly assembled about me and just as quickly began removing my clothing. That accomplished, they wrapped a large white muslin sheet around me and moved me over to the white marble table. Together, they assisted me onto the table, adjusted my position until I was lying on my back, and then departed from the room. I assumed that I was about to be given a massage, perhaps a lecture - instruction. The man stepped up next to me and removed that portion of the sheet which covered my abdomen. He raised his hands, rubbing them together over me for a couple of seconds, then began pummeling my belly in short painful Judo chops. I rolled sideways, moaning at the pain, but he continued striking at me. The blows forced me back, coming so fast that they pinned me to the table. And then, as abruptly as he had begun, he stopped.
"Now, how is that?" he asked me. "Does it hurt?"
This was the first time anyone had spoken to me since I had arrived at the house and the sound of his voice stunned me in its gentle gruffness. "Yes," I moaned, holding my stomach, "It hurts so badly."
"Hmm," he sighed, pursing his lips and shaking his head. Then he moved his hands back over my stomach and began striking me again. During the second assault, my mind finally grasped the concept that I was to remain silent and unflinching. If I moaned or complained of pain, the attacks would continue. This theory proved true when he stopped hitting me and again asked me how I felt. I stared up at him, forcing my face to relax, and said nothing. He smiled and nodded, then made a rapping sound on the table with his knuckles.

The door on the far end of the wall opened and one of the women came in. She was holding a large, round, low basket. She stepped up beside him and he turned back to me. He smoothed his hands over my stomach, then began taking beads from the basket and laying them on me. The beads, heavy, yellowed and ancient looking, were larger than any I had ever seen before. They varied in size and length, the largest as big around as an infant's arm. They ranged from one to six inches in length, reminding me of old bones. After he had arranged the beads in a pattern to his preference, the man took a large needle from the basket. It was threaded with heavy ropey twine, the kind used for baling hay. To my shock, he began stitching the beads to my abdomen. The agony of each stitch tearing roughly through my skin forced my breath from me. I dared not scream, understanding by now that to do so could possibly bring even worse hurt upon me. I fought to stay awake, terrified of passing out and waking to even greater circumstance or torment. Through the haze of pain, I kept thinking of the beads as bones. I tried to focus on that to keep my mind from the sensation of the thick twine dredging through my skin. And then he was finished. He stood up and walked from the room. Someone shut off the light and closed the doors.

I lay for hours in the darkness, in and out of a hazy consciousness that threatened my sanity when things became too clear in my awareness. The agony of my belly seared into my exhaustion, pried itself in jabbing slivers into my mind. I had never imagined that so archaic and ancient a ritual could endure in my lifetime. And, this was a culture that prided itself on its growing modernization.

As time drudged slowly by, I fought to keep from going crazy, to get my mind and myself beyond this puzzling torment. Through my anguish, the purpose of the ritual drifted over me. The women of this culture were expected to "realize" that they must endure excruciating pain without wince or complaint; secondarily, that they were totally captive of and subject to the whims of the culture - again to be met and followed without wince or complaint. My mind slowly began to grasp what had been meant by the phrase "sequential ritual," which had been used to describe how this culture initiated their women into adulthood. Each week for a month, they returned to this room for a different "lesson." And, I was to be brought through the steps as one of them. A heavy silent moan coursed deep inside of me, searing its sore and throbbing sorrow to the very center of my soul. If I continued with the initiation, I feared I would go crazy with the pain.

Quite suddenly, the door opened at the far end of the room. A young woman stepped inside. She was beautifully dressed in a soft pale lavender sweater and soft dark slacks. Her vibrantly brown chin-length hair was perfectly cut and styled, curving about her face and framing her young pink beauty. I sat up, realizing that I was to leave the room. As I rose, the beads on my stomach sagged from their own weight, clinking against each other in melodious accompaniment to the pain that dragged through me. I moved to the door closest to me and opened it. As I began to step through it, she threw herself next to me and blocked my way. I moved to continue through, but she stopped me again. I knew that it was to be her turn for the ritual, but she seemed to implore me not to leave. It was almost as though she wanted me to go through it for her. I tried again to leave.

"Oh, you mustn’t," she cried out in a despairing whisper. She put her arm up, holding it across the open doorway as she pleaded, imploring me with her dark eyes and an even louder whisper to stay. "I'm pregnant!" Her confession was swift and desperate, as she stood barring my way out the door.

No sooner had she spoken than the dark menacing face of the man appeared. She shrank back and, as he towered in rage over us, I realized that he was her father. "Pregnant!" he seethed. His words cut through the air like razors.

The young woman pointed at me. "Her, not me!" she cried in terror.
"No!" I screamed and escaped past them, running to stand beside Helen. She was still seated in the chair she'd taken so many hours before. I huddled in terror next to her and she slowly wrapped her arm around me, but said nothing.

The man turned ferociously on his daughter and she began to cry. He bent her back against the door, his anger rising and flashing about his face. Then, she started screaming, her pain and terror dripping like blood in the shrillness of her cries. I jerked my head up and saw that he had begun chopping at her in flat strikes with a sharp knife, flaying at her belly until it was a mass of bloody waxen ribbon-like bands. Her screams became louder, deeper, thicker - drenched with a sickening agony, but she continued to fight him. This seemed to anger him even more, and he stiffened for a moment in his obvious outrage. Through my shock, I realized that she had made an even worse error that I had when I'd complained of the pain. She had dared to fight him. His face grew livid, confirming my thoughts. Then he drew a larger knife from his belt, thrust it into the side of her abdomen, and carved the baby from her. All the while, he held her bent backward and screaming in the agony of his assault.

I begged Helen to intervene, but she sat silently, her head turned sideways and staring at the floor. I began to sob. My guilt at not taking the woman's pain, not lying for her or anticipating the consequences felt ominous and heavy. It had crossed my mind that I was too young to be believed, but that did nothing to ease the awful sense of responsibility I felt for her fate. I noted again her beautiful dark chin-length hair, her pale creamy lavender sweater, and her dark camel wool gabardine pants, and the clarity of my observations stunned me. From somewhere I remembered that my awareness of my surroundings had always intensified whenever I was hurt or afraid. Certain things seemed to coagulate vividly in my observation, staining my awareness with their oddly abject flavor in the midst of my distress. Perhaps it gave me a focus to find my way through, I thought dimly, and wondered if that was what was happening now. I looked back at the woman. She was so beautiful. Her clothes were so beautiful, and she was held writhing, screaming and bloody by her towering angry father. She may live or die I realized, but her agony was, would forever be, unthinkable, irremediable. I shook and cried, desolation overwhelming me; then I felt myself sliding away.
. . .


I awake to my body convulsing, feeling the hazy grayness dissolve into heavy ashen gloom. In the sticky darkness, I sob and pant in anguished despair. A woman appears beside me, surrounded by a fuzzy yellow glow that makes her appear surreal. She moves closer, a look of concern and sympathy furrowing her face, and then she reaches out and softly pats my arm.
"Would you like something for the pain?" she asks gently. "It's been a while since your last shot."
I feel puzzled. I look at her, blink, and then look around the room. I shake my head no.
"Bad dream?" she asks.
I look at her again, trying to comprehend, to orient myself.
"You were moaning and sighing when I came in," she explains. As she reaches out and adjusts the I.V. that is threaded into my arm, the edgy clarity of my surroundings files into my consciousness. Memory rushes back to me, blocking my senses for a moment, and I nod. A long deep sigh courses through me. "Bad dream," I repeat back to her.
She pats my hand again. "Let me know if you need anything."
She retreats from the room, her flashlight laying an amber path before her.
When she's gone, I raise my hands, running them tentatively over my belly. My fingers trace the tender ridge of the newly forming scar that edges along the side of my abdomen then races up to just under my left breast. I raise my arms to hug myself, then throw the sheet back and expose my silvery skin to closer examination. The moon hugs my belly in the splotchy darkness, bathing it in the light of centuries and moments, and I sigh in anguished and curious relief. "Bad dream," I say out loud in the darkness. Suddenly, I am crying, the hot salty tears flooding from my eyes, cauterizing my exhausted mind. This pain is ancient and enduring.

THE RITUAL © 1991 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!

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Spring begins its subtle dance
as the breath of Summer chants,
calling out to lure, entice,
the fronds once sleeping in the ice,
so thin a blade will venture out
against the winds of chilling doubt,
then reaching upward for the sun,
the march of seasons there begun,
a rose, a fern, a violet,
and each such welcoming to get
(throw off the fear we'd all forget).
the roots, so sturdy, there at rest
and waiting for the Sun's request
to wake them up, inviting all
to come and show their luscious thrall,
(to heed the breezes in their call),
and make an entrance, splendidly,
and gather there for all to see
(delighting eyes deliciously),
this shift, embracing through the fade,
beyond the curtains Winter made,
to saunter, now, in grand parade.
© 2009 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!

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