*Kindling Friendship* Anne Copeland

A bit of rain this morning, and now we are face to face with a hint of Spring. Ah, just breathe in the promise of new growth as mild sunshine flickers across your face.

And what a treat to open my door this afternoon to author Anne Copeland.

Me: Oh welcome, Anne, I’ve been eager to meet you! You picked the perfect day for a visit, you know.

Anne: Well, thank you kindly for the invite, Joan.

Me: How about a cup of tea, or maybe coffee?

Anne: I love coffee, and I love tea too. Coffee in the morning and sometimes at night if I am working on a project, and Tea in the afternoon, especially with crumpets.

Me: Haha, well, no crumpets today, darn it. But I’ll give you a couple of fresh-baked cookies with your lemon ginger tea.

Mmmmm, now that we’re comfy, I’d like to ask you a few questions to get to know you as a person, not just as an author. If you could be any other living thing, what would you be?

Anne: I would be a bird that could soar for long periods of time like the Pelicans. I admire them because they seem so graceful and so ordered when they fly, and they seem to just glide across the sky.

Me: Lovely. What do you like to do on a rainy day?

Anne: I am a big fan of being warm as I have something called Reynauld’s Syndrome, that makes my hands and feet turn different colors and nearly cause me to itch them right off when they get cold. So I like to stay inside and listen to soft jazz music or relaxation music and sometimes I will get in bed and take a nap before working on my creative projects. I am an artist in fiber arts and mixed media too, so I always like working on something when it is cold.

Me: What’s your favorite part of going grocery shopping?

Anne: Our grocery shopping is an adventure. I love all the colors in the store, and I like to watch the other people too as they shop. We often go to three or four stores to get all the things we want and need. We plan this out ahead so it definitely feels like an adventure. It is a happy time for me and my significant other, Richard. He loves to cook, and is a great cook most of the time, so it is very fun for us and generally takes up most of the day as we look and discuss and plan. I think this says a lot about my love of art. I see it in everything, and so seeing all the colors and shapes and smelling the different smells definitely relates to my artistic and sensual nature. I love to use all my senses.

Me: Would you rather vacation at the beach or in the mountains?

Anne: I love the mountains the most, though I enjoy being near the ocean for a short time. But I could stay in the mountains a longer time, especially if I had a nice warm fire near the tent or I was in a warm cabin. I love being out in nature, and the woods is my favorite of all.

Me: Do you have a favorite punctuation mark?

Anne: Without question, the exclamation point. When I post online, I often end each sentence with one or three of them. I am very passionate about life and I show it often!

Me: What role have children played in your life?

Anne: When I lost a very high level job as a Regulatory Compliance Specialist at age 64, I was without a job and it was difficult as no one wanted or understood someone with my title, so I ended up substituting as a paraeducator for special needs children with multiple challenges (i.e. developmental, physical and mental). I was often what is called a one-on-one where I assisted one child all day long, and I absolutely loved it. I really love children and if you ever read my blog, http://www.allinadaysbreath.wordpress.com, you will see that. I think like a child a lot of times. I did substitute work at different levels for some 15+ years and only recently retired at age 77. I also have done tutoring for children in different subjects, so I really love them all. Being around children is always a challenge that keeps your mind young.

Me: Boy, can I relate to that. Teaching has been so fulfilling to me because students have a way of challenging you so you can’t help but question right alongside them and grow yourself. Do you have a favorite fairy tale/children’s story?

Anne: It may sound dismal, but my Grandma used to read to me aloud “The Little Match Girl” and “The Red Shoes” by Hans Christian Anderson. The Little Match girl shows the ability of a person to overcome the worst of the worst challenges, and The Red Shoes shows what happens when a person becomes obsessed with something in this life. Those two tales have stuck with me for most of my life to this day. I made an art quilt of The Little Match Girl, and you can see it on my blog.

Me: Oh, I know you need to get back to your busy life Anne, but before you leave, tell me a little more about your writing, won’t you? And where I might read your work?

Anne: Thank you very kindly. I started out working for a little Hippy magazine of the day, Freedom Today. From there I worked for two newspapers, one a small community newspaper and the other a nursing oriented newspaper. I did typesetting and layout and had my own graphic arts and publications business for a time, so I did a lot of writing then. Oh, and I have done a lot of freelance editing over the years. I am primarily a nonfiction writer, and I love writing with imagination. In 1989, I wrote a pumpkin cookbook and self published it by working two full-time jobs. I am in process of getting the 3rd Edition out now. It is called Pumpkin, Pumpkin: Lore, History, Nutrition, Planting Care, and Good Eating. That and our book, Artful Alchemy: Physically Challenged Fiber Artists Creating are published by Amazon.com. Artful Alchemy is available in E-book and paperback, and Pumpkin, Pumpkin will soon be available the same way too.

Me: Anne, I have certainly enjoyed our visit and getting to know you better.

Anne: Thank you kindly for an excellent interview.

And as I hug my guest good-bye,I sense the expansion of late afternoon shadows, and catch the sweet cooing sounds of a mourning dove somewhere across the street in a tall pine tree. Maybe Spring is just around the corner after all, I sigh.

The candlelighter in hand, I straighten the candles on the mantle and prepare to welcome Shabbot. It has been a busy week, with visits from grown kids and more than the usual number of notes and phone calls for my birthday. I sigh as the flame clicks into being. How fortunate I am to be encircled by so many devoted family members and friends, to be living in such a beautiful place of natural wonders, to enjoy my remaining teaching responsibilities, my writing, my health…

I close my eyes and draw the glow around myself, spiral it outward to include loved ones and the world, and marvel at the sensation of inner glowing I feel. How fortunate I am, I sigh again, and whisper:

Blessed are You, Beloved One, Who fills the world with Goodness and Light, Who enables us to grow and learn and delight in Your Creation, and Who gives us Shabbot every seven days to feel its Completeness in You.

And let us say: Amen.

My Birthday Song For You

It must be your birthday
if you awake to find
the miracle of Being
forever on your mind.

If sunlight in the morning
And shadows til midnight
hint of hidden mysteries
that spark your soul’s delight.

If every whisper everywhere
from friends to hummingbirds
imparts a tune beyond compare
Love song beyond mere words.

Well, this may not be your day of birth,
But I delight to say it’s mine
And with gratitude sweet blessings send
To you, this Valentine!

With much love and many, many blessings…thank you for sharing this amazing journey with me!

*Kindling Friendship* Ann Barnes

Dear Friends,

For the past five months I have delighted in interviewing friends and new acquaintances, and sharing these conversations with you as the weekly *Kindling Friendship* feature of this blog. These homey little chats have been very well received, and I am sincerely grateful to everyone who has participated– either by joining me in a cup of virtual tea, or by commenting afterward.

But the hummingbirds outside my kitchen window are already scoping out the perfect location for their nest, knowing that Spring and renewal are right around the corner. Soon the green daffodil sprouts will be crowned by dozens of yellow flowers, and I, too, will need to rearrange my creative furniture, to make room for something new. So after a few more guests, *Kindling Friendship* will become only an occasional feature.

***
The afternoon sprawls uncertainly overhead today, a combination of grey skies and somewhat mild temperatures. I suppose Winter must continue to assert its claim for a while longer, even despite early signs of Spring’s impending return.

I, however, don’t have to accept it.

The house is cheery, with the bubblingfountain singing in the living room, and the tea kettle whistling in the kitchen. A wispy aroma of freshly baked cookies intermingles with the slight citrus tang of peeled oranges, and I sigh, “Ah, Shabbot is coming.”

Another moment, the doorbell rings, and I’m welcoming my guest, author Ann Barnes.

Me: Welcome, Ann, how nice of you to drop by!

Ann: Thanks for having me, it’s great to be here.

Me: Come in and get cozy…what may I get you as we chat, a cup of tea? Coffee? I also have a few tidbits to nibble. How about a cookie or maybe a piece of fruit?

Ann: Tea with sugar is fine, and I’d like a cookie to dunk in my tea, please.

Me: Here you go. And where would you feel most comfortable: here at my kitchen table?
Or would you like a comfy chair in the livingroom?

Ann: Oh, the kitchen table is fine.

Me: Mmmm…okay, I’ve got my lemon ginger tea as well…now that we’re settled, tell me a little about yourself. I know you love writing, what else brings you joy?

Ann: Well, I also love spending time with my family, listening to music and podcasts, reading, and crocheting. I am a Christian, so singing in my church choir is very enjoyable and I am blessed to have a musical talent.

Me: Oh, how nice. And what part of the country do you live in?

Ann: I live in the SouthEast. This is the home where I grew up, so I returned here when my endeavors didn’t quite work out. It’s a tiny house, enough for myself and my daughter, near my parents’ house, so I will be here permenantly.

Me: What do you like best and least about living there?

Ann: I love sitting on the porch on warm days, so I can listen to my mother’s windchimes. I love the quiet of the country, versus the noise pollution of the city. Although city living is recommended for blind people I still prefer my rural home to it. The only thing that I don’t like about it is the lack of transportation to long distances for events. Taking a walk can sometimes be a mobility nightmare, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Me: Is your writing influenced in any way by where you live?

Ann: Oh yes! I get inspiration from sitting out on the front porch. I love living in a place where I don’t have to stay cooped up inside while trying to get inspiration.

Me:So what’s your writing process like? Do you have a certain time of day you find most productive? Or a special place where you find inspiration?

Ann: I find inspiration in lots of places, aspects of life and sometimes the oddest thing can inspire me. I don’t have a specific time of day that’s most productive, although I have been known to write at night. Often times I do most of my brainstorming while sitting in the front porch swing.

Me: What got you started writing?

Ann: Oh, haha, do you want the most recent answer, or do you want me to go back to middle school where I won a creative writing contest? No, the one thing I remember that most inspired me is the introduction to New Stories from the South 2001. Lee Smith, who was the editor of this wonderful anthology, talked about how one of her students thought she couldn’t write a story. As she described how she got her student’s creative juices flowing, I was inspired to start writing my own story.

Me:How interesting. And what keeps you writing?

Ann: Well, I can give you three reasons. It’s fun, I learn a lot when I do research for professional clients , blog posts and books, and I have found it to be therapeutic.

Me: And now a few more “creative” questions, if you don’t mind, so I can get a better glimpse of you as a person. If you could be any other living thing, what would you be?

Ann: Ooh! I haven’t really thought about that. I guess I’d be an angel, because I could fly to different places and help those in need. And, haha, I could especially fly to my events, instead of having to depend on others for transportation.

Me: Yes,haha, that would be handy-What do you like to do on a rainy day?

I love to read, crochet and/or listen to a podcast or soothing music. If it’s raining at night, I’ll fall asleep to the sound of rain drumming on my tin roof.

Me: Do you have a favorite children’s story?

Ann: when I was little, I loved to read a book called King Emig’s Pig. He had glass pigs, paper pigs, and pigs of all shapes and sizes, but the one thing he wanted in all the world was a real live pig.

Me: Oh, I know you need to get back to your busy life, but before you leave, tell me a little more about your writing, won’t you? And where I might read your work?

Ann: I have published four books, and I’m working on getting two books published in the next couple of months. You can find out more about my books and connect with me at my Website:
https://annwritesinspiration.com
Or at Electric Eclectic books website:
http://bit.ly/visitEEbooks

I’m also on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/ElectricEclecticBooks/
https://www.facebook.com/annwritesinspiration
Twitter:
https://www.twitter.com/annwrites75

My Amazon author page is:
https://www.amazon.com/Ann-Harrison/e/B01H68QH5U
Me: Well, Ann, thank you so much for visiting with me today. I hope you’ll come visit me again very soon.

And as I hug my guest good-by and close the door with a click, the candlelighter finds its way into my anticipating hand. The candle sticks are quickly straightened, and a flame flicks into being. One candle takes the flame, then its twin, and the lighter rests once more. I close my eyes, breathe deeply, once twice, circle the glow toward, around and away from myself, intentionally embracing beloved family, friends, the world’s inhabitants

And I whisper: Blessed are You, Beloved One, Who renews the Earth in its seasons, Who renews the flame of Life in its season, Who renews me each and every Shabbot that I may better partner with You in the work of Shalom.

And let us say: Amen.

About The World

I dreamed about the world last night.
It shone blue and green, bright
in a sea of blackness—

just like photos from space.
And I was floating beside it,
spreading a large blanket across

and around,pulling
it inside my classroom,
for students to compare

with all the other Earths
we had already collected
and put on display.

*Kindling Friendship* Thea Ramsay

Winter may be showing off all its powers to wreak havoc on the rest of the country, but here in the Willamette Valley, I feel almost guilty to report that temperatures have been fairly mild. This combined with dazzling blue skies has not only got daffodils straining their green fingers Heavenward,but has also managed to raise my spirits back into the realm ofoptimism…especially after the sadness of last week.

Yes, my ailing friend died on Tuesday, and another very dear lady in my life died Wednesday. She was 96 years old, had lived a full and healthy life, and was ready to transition to the next phase of reality. But that doesn’t mean I was ready to let her go.

And even as I sat at her bedside and confirmed, “Are you getting ready to fly away, my dear?”, I couldn’t hide my tears, tears for my loss, not for hers. She was ready. And amid great gusts of wind that rattled the doors and windows of her little cottage, she slipped away into the night.
***
One day you’re saying good-bye, and the next thing you know, the door opens to a new acquaintance, possibly a new friend. And so to day I welcome author, Thea Ramsay into my home.

Me: Welcome, Thea, how nice to finally meet you!

Thea: Thanks for inviting me.

Me: As we chat, would you like a cup of tea? Or perhaps you’d rather have coffee?

Thea: I’m a chocoholic, with no plans for rehab, so, although I do enjoy decaf coffee, a thick cup of chocolate is always preferred.

Me: Mmmm, that sounds scrumptious. Let’s whip some up while we chat.

Thea:Chocolate is said to raise one’s endorphin level. And as you may know, endorphins are the brain chemicals which create euphoria from a variety of sources.

Me: That’s fascinating, Thea…I’m stirring…tell me more.

Thea: Chocolate, exercise, opiates, sex, love, bonding and singing are all ways to enhance endorphin production. My favorite two emotions are love and euphoria, which is a very strong joy, with at least for me, elements of synesthesia. That is, when I’m euphoric, I tend to have nicer synesthetic responses. Music sounds sweeter. Words feel softer. Yes, I can feel the textures of words. The really euphoric words have ‘th’s in them. They sound and feel fuzzy or fluffy to me. Synesthesia is a poorly understood neural connection phenomena.

Me: Amazing…well, here we go, two cups of freshly brewed cocoa.

Thea: Thanks–just so you know, I’ll always choose chocolate over anything else, including fruit, nuts, meat, or dairy.

Me: Haha, I kind of got that idea. Let’s sit in the livingroom where it’s comfy.

Thea: A comfy chair with a purring cat on my lap is my favorite place to be. I have a new cat which I named Theta, in honor of my book, Lucy, being published.

Me: Well, no cats here, but Ari will sit by us, and keep our feet warm, won’t you, Buddy?

*A big yawn from Ari as he wags, jingles his tags and settles down at our feet for a nap.*

Me: Ah, now thea, tell me about yourself…where you live, how you like it, whatever you wish.

Thea: I live in Toronto, actually, in Scarborough. I like the plethora of services available, including WheelTrans, which is a door to door transportation service for those who cannot use the subways and busses. I’m blind and in a wheelchair, so that puts me firmly in WheelTrans. I like the amount of meetups available. Since I have no family, and the people I love are either gone to the next life, or moved away, and since I find it hard to really assist people to look past my disabilities, I find myself alone too much. That’s why I eat too much chocolate. It doesn’t quite substitute for no family or warm loved ones, but it’ll have to do till the real thing comes along. Ha ha.
Anyway, I lived on Maui for twelve years. During that time, I was married and raising two kids. I really miss being married. I miss the companionship, the snuggling, the in jokes. I miss his pork stew, his chili, and his green bean casserole. I miss the way the aromas would permeate our little honey house on Maui. I miss the warm routines, the ‘fur’ of someone being there. I don’t like being alone. It’s better than being in a crappy relationship, but all things being equal, I don’t like aloneness.
I don’t mind some time alone to write, but as a good friend of mine says ‘Alone in this world is a crock’.
I miss Maui, too, but I came back to Toronto when my marriage and my health failed. Plus, I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a fairly serious mental illness.

Me: My, you have had a lot to deal with, haven’t you?

Thea: And I just thought everybody else was crazy! LOL
Turns out to be me.LOL.

Me: Does where you live impact your writing much?

Thea My writing doesn’t often involve my place of residence; it more often involves my emotional states and the experiences that triggered them.

Me: And what about your writing process? Do you have a certain time or place that works best to inspire you?

Thea: I choose my writing time based on when I have the most energy. I have several inflammatory conditions, each one carrying stiffness and fatigue as symptoms. So I sometimes lack energy.
Energy is something I don’t like to waste, since I no longer have as much of it as I want. So when I’m energetic, I write and write and write ..

Me: I see.

Thea: I joined a meetup group called Write Together which meets every Tuesday at a downtown café for writing and socializing. The organizer of the group has us work for fifty minutes, then take a fifteen-minute break. During the breaks, we usually talk about our projects. During work time, the best way I can describe it as parallel play. That is, we write side by side, but each doing her own thing.
I also like the fact that we’re working at a café. I get there early to grab some chocolate.

Me: Haha, of course. And when did you start writing, Thea?

Thea: I started writing before I could spell. I remember writing a story in which I spelled magic “madjik.” Seriously. I couldn’t have been more than seven. I’ve been writing since then. My fifth grade teacher encouraged me to consider writing as a career. While reading Heaven by Randy Alcorn, (I highly recommend this book), Alcorn spoke of a runner whose name I’ve forgotten. When asked why he ran, he answered, “Because it’s what I was put here to do. It’s my gift. In fact, to not run is to hold God in contempt.”
When I first heard that, a bell wint ‘ping’. Someone had said what I’d never realized till that moment.
Although I’ve played music and love the theater madly, my real gift is writing. To not write is to hold God in contempt. It is the one thing I can still do, despite inflammatory conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia.
I perceive the world in a unique way via my synesthesia and my mood disorder, and the fact that I’ve been completely blind all my life. I don’t operate from a visual center, but a tactile one. Did I mention that the feel of fur puts me into ecstasy even most blind people don’t feel? The brush of sleek, glossy fur on bare skin, especially when unexpected, kills a few million brain cells for me.
All these things help, especially if you’re writing sci-fi or fantasy.

Me: That’s very interesting, Thea. I can certainly understand how your shift in perception would add distinct color and depth to your writing.

Thea: exactly. Rainy nights on Maui brought out the smell of night-blooming jasmine for me. I would hear the rain thrumming on the roof of our honey house, and grab a Braille book. Hard copy books have textures and fragrances all their own.
I think they go well with rainy afternoons, or sunny days in the gazebo among the flowers.
Of course, now that I live in Toronto, I don’t get the benefits of nature so directly, so I downloaded an app called ‘nature space’ on my iPhone and listen to the various woodland and meadow scenes, birds, winds, and waves.
And of course, rain.
It’s not the same as the real thing, but it’ll do.

Me: Do children play a role in your life, or in your writing?

Thea: I have a son and a daughter. I bonded better with my daughter than I did with my son. That’s because both my daughter and I celebrated and enjoyed our girlhood. Children don’t play a large role in most of my writing, though my Lucy books do feature children as the main characters.

Me: Do any Fairy Tales or children’s stories speak to you?

Thea: I enjoy reading children’s literature, because I am apt to find lovely concepts (such as all the neat features of Willy Wonka’s shop or Hogwarts) are to be found in children’s books. And I’d have to say my top children’s fairy tale is The Wizard of Oz, followed closely by the Harry Potter books, and the Willy Wonka books. Last but not least, the Arabian Nights.
All of these stories have one thing in common: rich imagination. Flying carpets, princes and princesses, beauty, etc. are all to be found in classic children’s literature.

Me: Oh, I know you need to get back to your busy life, but before you leave, tell me a little more about your writing, won’t you? And where I might read your work?

Thea: Sure, my book is called:
A VERY SPECIAL HOUSE
A novella by Canadian author Thea Ramsay

You can find full details of this and my other publications, which are a novel and a short story at: http://www.dldbooks.com/thearamsay/ There’s even a nice review by Leonore H. Dvorkin.

Me: Wonderful. Thank you so much for visiting with me today, Thea. I hope you’ll come visit me again very soon.

I hug Thea good-bye, confident that we will talk again, and close the door. The trusty candlelighter finds its way to my hand, and I carefully straighten the candles on the mantle. My thoughts turn to the moment, the task at hand. Shabbot is drawing near, and it is important to welcome it, so important that Jewish sages of old even equate Shabbot with a Bride on her wedding day, and a Queen.

The candlelighter clicks and I bring the flame to the candles, close my eyes, and seek the delight of the moment. One breath, two, and I’m circling light toward and around me, then out to the world. We could all use a touch of delight, a smidge of joy, an embrace of peace, I muse. Then I whisper:

Blessed are You, Beloved One, Source of Life, Bringer of joy, Partner in all things delightful, including Shabbot. May we join You in song, and in enhancing joy for all we meet.

And let us say: Amen.

*Kindling Friendship* Peter Altschul

Life certainly presented all her faces this week for me. Blustery rain and wind claimed superiority over Tu b’Shevat (the Jewish birthday of trees), while the promise of Spring and renewal whispered at me in gentle, little breezes as I bid a sorrowful farewell to two dear friends. But perhaps the contradictions are always self-evident. Perhaps this week I was simply more attuned to the rhythms and melodies of material Life.

Ari jumps to his feet as the door bell rings, and I put aside musing to welcome my guest, Peter Altschul. In addition to composing music, Peter assists groups and organizations to become better at motivating people, resolving conflicts, managing diversity, and planning for the future.

Me: Peter, welcome, how nice of you to drop by!

Peter: Thanks!

Me: As we chat, would you like a cup of tea? Or perhaps you’d rather have coffee?

Peter: Unsweetened iced tea would be welcomed — or an IPA, if you have it.

Me: You are in luck, my friend, since unsweetened iced tea is also on my menu today! Now I also have a few tidbits to nibble, a cookie or maybe a piece of fruit?

Peter Anything chocolate or nutty would be great; thanks!

Me: Okay, chocolate covered peanuts should suffice. Where would you feel most comfortable: here at my kitchen table?
Or would you like a comfy chair in the living room?

Peter Kitchen table is fine.

Me: Ah, now that we’re settled, tell me a little about yourself. What part of the country do you live in?

Peter: I’m an east coast brat now living in Columbia, Missouri.

Me: Have you been there long?

Peter: Ten years

Me: What do you like best and least about living there?

Peter:
The arts scene — especially the music — is outstanding. Most people are friendly. I do miss the public transportation and employment opportunities.

Me: Is your writing influenced in any way by where you live?

Peter: Probably, but I’m not sure how.

Me: Can you describe your writing process for me? For example, do you have a certain time of day you find most productive? Or a special place where you find inspiration?

Peter: I have no fixed schedule; I write when I have the urge and/or an idea. When the weather’s decent, I like to write outside on my deck. Otherwise, I find it easier to write away from my apartment.

Me: What got you started writing?

Peter: Up until ten years ago, I hated to write even though I knew I was a decent writer. Friends and colleagues encouraged me to write a memoir, but I never took them seriously — until a professor accepted me into a PHD-level nonfiction writing class. I was shocked; it was my first creative writing class. So my journey as a writer began.

Me: And I wonder, why do you write? I mean, if you could sum it up in a word or in a simple statement, what keeps you writing?

Peter: Given my current situation, writing is the best way for me to convey my thoughts and experiences to others.

Me: And now a few more “creative” questions, if you don’t mind, so I can get a better glimpse of you as a person. What kind of fruit or vegetable would you say best expresses your personality? Why?

Peter: I’ve always loved bananas.

Me: What do you like to do on a rainy day?

Peter: Go for a walk if it’s not raining too hard. Otherwise, reading or listening to sports and/or music.

Me: What’s your favorite part of going grocery shopping? What do you think that says about you?

Peter: I dislike grocery shopping. Too crowded and I have to rely too much on others to get the job done.

Me: Would you rather vacation at the beach or in the mountains? Why?

Peter: I prefer fresh water over salt water; so I suppose mountains. On the other hand, seafood is fresher and tastier near beaches.

Me: What is your favorite punctuation mark?

Peter: The comma, as it creates the most conflict about its use.

Me: What role have children played in your life? How about in your writing?

Peter: I have three wonderfully challenging almost-grown stepkids. They’ve taught me so much about humility, flexibility, and patience. Perhaps, that’s indirectly affected my writing.

Me: What is your favorite fairy tale/children’s story? Why?

Peter: I’ve never been much into fairy tales — perhaps, “Jack and the Beanstalk” comes to mind. But thanks to my niece, I became hooked on the Harry Potter series. Is that a fairy tale?

Me: It might as well be, it has become such a part of modern literature. Oh, I know you need to get back to your busy life, but before you leave, tell me a little more about your writing, won’t you? And where I might read your work?

Peter Sure, you can visit

http://www.peteraltschul.com

for information about my memoir (2012), my book of concise essays (2017), my blog, Twitter feed, professional stuff I have written, and music I have composed.

Me: Thank you so much for visiting with me today. I hope you’ll come visit me again very soon.

Peter: Thanks for the hospitality and good conversation. I welcome the chance to do it again.

As the door closes behind my guest, I think about the many other topics Peter and I might have discussed, deep, insoluable questions aboutlife and death and the meaning we seek in between.

But for now, shadows are growing, and Shabbot is near. My hand finds the trusty candlelighter, and I carefully draw the flame to the wick. Time stands still as I watch the flame flickering. I breathe deeply in, then slowly out, wave the glow up and toward myself, around in a circle to embrace family and loved ones, outward to include all the world. Time is an illusion, I muse, there is only this moment, now. And I whisper:

Blessed are you, Beloved One of all time, Who enables us to bring Your light and Love into the world, and to receive the Light and Love of all those with whom we journey.

And let us say: Amen

On Tu b’Shevat

Jewniquely Myself

Today is Tu b’Shevat, the 15thday of the Jewish month of Shevat. It is the Birthday of Trees.

Yes, I know, Spring has not yet officially arrived. In some parts of the world, snow and ice remain, or will return. But in Israel, the sap is likely flowing—or will be quite soon.

In ancient times, Tu biShevat was a way of marking the age of a tree in order to harvest fruit appropriately. You might even say that Tu b’Shevat ensured care for trees just as trees provide sustenance for humans.

**Our Jewish ancestors teach us so much, don’t they?

And so do trees themselves :

Lesson

When the wind rustles the sapling’s leaves,

Does it doubt its own strength?

And after winter has immobilized its life-force,

Does it question its existence?

Flexibility is a gift,

Whether of mind or body;

The ability to grow, to change,

Resilience to endure

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*Kindling Friendship* Phyllis Campbell

Darkness hangs low over my winter garden this morning, seeping into my flesh despite extra layers of flannel and wool. And even though yesterday’s rain is gone, mist weeps into my upturned face.

My heart is weighted down by the news of a dear friend drawing near to death. I whisper another prayer, a blessing in her direction, smile weakly remembering our last conversation, her hope for the new treatments, her plans for afterward, her delight that we shared a kind of quirky humor as well as open honesty.

And even now the garden speaks to me. Not of death and rebirth, but simply of being. The garden is what it is– no matter the season. And so is she, my dear friend. She is what she is, no matter the season.

I turn toward the light of my porch lamp and walk slowly back inside. ***
And this afternoon, I have the sweet honor of opening my door and finding author, Phyllis Campbell.

Me: Phyllis, finally, I’ve been wanting to meet you for the longest time, welcome, welcome, how nice of you to drop by! Please come inside out of the dampness, it’s nice and cozy in here. How about a cup of hot tea, and a cookie or two?

Phyllis: Thank you.

Me: Ah, lemon-ginger is just perfect for a day like this, don’t you think? And now that we’re settled, tell me a little about yourself. What part of the country do you live in?

Phyllis: I live in Staunton, Virginia, where I’ve lived since I was six years old.

Me: What do you like best and least about living there?

Phyllis: Staunton is small enough that I can walk into my bank, and be addressed by name, and large enough to have such cultural advantages as a Shakespeare theater. I could wish for more public transportation.

Me: Is your writing influenced in any way by where you live?

Phyllis: My writing without exception, at least for my full-length books, is influenced by the small town atmosphere, as well as the rural areas of Virginia. In fact, “Who Will Hear Them Cry” a mystery, has Staunton as its setting.

Me: Can you describe your writing process for me? For example, do you have a certain time of day you find most productive? Or a special place where you find inspiration?

Phyllis: I’m definitely a morning person, although I’ve disciplined myself to write at any time, if I’m trying to meet a deadline. I often use music to create the mood that I need when working on A particular subject.

Me: So what was it that got you writing?

Phyllis: I have been an avid reader, but long before I could actually read, very early on that little “what if” reared its head. What if this particular character were blind? How would a person who is blind handle that situation?

Me: Oh, that’s interesting.

Phyllis: Well,then for several years I was quite ill, and found myself wondering if I could still write. I pulled out a manuscript that had been languishing since before my husband’s illness and death, and my own illness. “Where Sheep May Safely Graze” was released late, 2017, and I’m hoping for a sequel, depending on sales.

Me: And what keeps you writing?

Phyllis: What keeps me writing? *smile*
Who knows?

Me: And now a few more “creative” questions, if you don’t mind, so I can get a better glimpse of you as a person. If you could be any other living thing, what would you be?

Phyllis: I think I’d like to be a cat, because they possess the independence, and curiosity of the world around them, that I strive for.

Me: What do you like to do on a rainy day?

Phyllis:Make a pot of soup or stew.

Me: Ooh, I’d go for that, all right. And what is your favorite punctuation mark?

Phyllis: Why, The question mark, of course.

Me: What role have children played in your life? How about in your writing?

Phyllis: Oh, I love kids! I have worked with children since I first played for the junior choir, when I was still in my teens. I have taught at the Virginia School for the Blind, and given private piano and voice lessons. I also worked as youth transition specialist. I wrote a novel for young adults, “A Place To Belong”, which is available from Amazon. And I have also taught writing to youth and conducted a workshop, at a local school.

Me: That’s wonderful! Do you have a favorite fairy tale or children’s story?

Phyllis: You know, strangely enough, I don’t think I have one. Probably, if I had to choose, it would be the Oz books, all of them, not just The Wizard. Then, there’s “Charlotte’s Web” and … You get the idea, this could go on for pages!

Me: Oh, I know you need to get back to your busy life, but before you leave, tell me a little more about your writing, won’t you? And where I might read your work?

Phyllis: My short pieces have appeared in the romance market, inspirational publications, the Virginia Psychiatric Journal, and such publications as Dialogue Magazine. My books are”Friendships in the Dark” a memoir, Brett Books, hardcover, St. Martins, paperbook, and Thorndike Press, large-print. It was also translated into Chinese, and also was published in the United Kingdom; “Come Home My heart” Avalon Press, hardcover, Thorndike, large-print; “Who Will Hear them Cry” mystery, “A Place to Belong” “Out of the Night” available from Amazon; and “Where Sheep May Safely Graze” Westboe Press, and Amazon, as well as many other electronic locations.
The Amazon titles may be found at
http://www.amazon.com/author/psc-books-all
Some of the Amazon titles are under the name, Phyllis Staton Campbell. The address above is my author page.

Me: Well, Phyllis, it has certainly been sweet visiting with you today. I hope that we can stay in touch and chat again very soon.

Phyllis: Yes, that would be nice.

I linger over the hug Phyllis and I exchange, warmer somehow with the recognition of Life’s fleeting nature. This lovely visit, these few words shared between new friends, everything seems fixed in
photographic permanence. And there is something truly permanent about what we have shared, something substantial in the goodwill and affection. But there are so many mysteries.

Another quick squeeze, and the door closes.

I sigh and slowly reach for my faithful candlelighter. So many mysteries, I muse again. The flame clicks into being, and I draw it to the wick, once, twice, the flame disappears.

But now there are two flames, I marvel, two sparks of light in the midst of growing darkness. I close my eyes, inhale the sweetness of the moment, deeply, intentionally, claim the glow for myself, for my beloved family and friends, for the world.

And I whisper: Blessed are You, Beloved One, Light and Love of all the world, who enables us to bring light and love into the lives of those we meet, and into the world.

And let us say: Amen.