All posts by joanmyles

About joanmyles

Poet. Writer. Check out my blog at www.JewniquelyMyself.com

The School Marm

The School Marm*A joint writing project by Winslow Parker and Joan Myles*

TSM 1

Heat-shimmered air blued a distant mountain range. Spiraling Buzzards marked the death of a desert creature. Mirages poured dry water onto every flat surface . A horse dropping hosted a constellation of desultory flies. A black and tan mongrel lifted a curious head, glanced around, lifted his tail once then dropped his head back into the dust. Humans pulled their tar-paper shacks over themselves like desert tortoises, seeking shelter from the sun.

A lone sun-weathered man leaned against the livery door, face in the shade, body exposed to the sun’s angry noontime rays. His hand lifted and lowered to the rhythm of slow draws on a black cigar. He blew lazy smoke rings toward the center of the empty street. His eyes flicked to the left, following the dry road south to its curve around the base of La Mesa Butte.

Dust puffed at the Eastern base of the vertical cliff then gathered strength, billowing into a cloud. Two miles from town, a stagecoach headed by six plodding horses emerged from the cloud. The man flicked his cigar into the street, straightened, turned and entered the livery. He appeared a moment later, a shotgun cradled in the crook of his right elbow. He reached into his pocket withdrawing a brass star, the token of his office. With a practiced wrist flick, he pinned it to his shirtfront.

The stage drew up to the livery door. The horses let their heads droop. Sweat carved stream through the brown dust caking their flanks.

The creak of leather and the shril protest of inadequately greased axles drew two men to the saloon door. They stayed in the shadow of its sign, watching. A boy, heedless of the heat, scuffed across the street toward the only action in town. His feet were two moles raising the dust from beneath.

“Howdy Fletch!”

“Howdy Frank! Hard trip?”

“Yep, wasn’t sure this team was going to make it. Heat’s got them tuckered nearly to death.”

“Looks like it. Need a fresh team?”

“Nah, just some feed and water. I’ll let them rest for a coupla hours in the livery to cool down. Any passengers back to Yuma?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Then it’ll be a light load and I can baby them a bit.”

“Suit yourself.”

Frank swung down from the driver’s box, lighting easily in the thick dust. He placed a wooden stool beneath the door then straightened to open it. He touched the brim of his hat.

“Yer here, ma’am,” he said. “This is the end of the line, Furnace Wells.”

A dainty booted foot extended from the door, seeking the stool . A second followed it, then a flurry of skirts dropped into place. A delicate hand sought and found the supporting door handle. A pretty young woman emerged and stepped gracefully to the ground.

“This here’s Miss Phillips, your new school marm.” Frank said byway of introduction, “And this is Fletch Furnace Wells’s sherriff.” He gestured at the man standing just inside the livery door.

Fletch touched the brim of his hat, “Pleasure, ma’am. We’ve been waiting a long time for ya.” His smile did not reach his hat-shadowed eyes.

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TSM 2

She stood for a moment beside the stage, the heat pressing down upon her and the dazzling light bringing tears to her eyes.

“Furnace Wells. An apt name for a town on such a day as this,” she wiped her brow, then, squinting, looked up at Fletch and smiled, “Now really, I’m not so dangerous as to require a lawman’s welcome.”

But before Fletch could speak, the sprightly young woman was reaching back into the coach to retrieve her bulging cloth satchel, and calling out, “oh, my books. I’ll need my books, please.”

Frank cast a sideways look in Fletch’s direction, and slowly climbed back onto the stagecoach.

“Got your trunk right here, Ma’am,” he lowered the massive piece down to Fletch, touched his hat brim once more as he jumped from the coach, and strode into the livery like he was on fire.

“Thank yooooou,” Miss Philips sang out after him. To Fletch she confided, “I simply can’t do my work with out my books. And my typewriter.”

Leaning the trunk against the coach’s rear wheel, Fletch cleared his throat and thought for a minute. He wasn’t much with words. Careful deliberation and quick action were his usual methods. This school marm, though, was not like him. He could tell already. He pulled a few thoughts together, and took a deep breath.

“The reverend sent me to meet you, Ma’am, he started, “Ya see, old Lizzie Grandbouche is on her deathbed–has been for the last three years or so, I reckon–and ev’ry now an’ again she gets a hankering for a private, weekday sermon, like she ‘spects the angels are hovering’ right overhead.“

He paused to measure her sense of things, but coming up empty, just kept talking.

“So Reverend Krane and his wife–she leads the ladies in singing’–both scurry on over to Lizzies when she gets like that, pickin’ up a few of the ladies of the choir, cause she is the church’s biggest supporter, Ol’ Lizzie Granbouche, you know what I mean. Well, it’s a good ten miles up to Lizzie’s place, and the Kranes won’t likely get back, what with the singin’ and the prayin’ and the tearful rememberin’ Lizzie is likely to put them all through, and then dinner–no tellin’ how late they’ll be.”

“I see.”

Fletch noticed Miss Phillips’s smile was gone. She was frowning, gazing down at her dusty boots, then along the road, up to the cloudless sky, and back down to her boots again.

“Now don’t you fret,” he said.

his searching gaze landed on the boy crouched down the street drawing in the dust with his finger. He let out a sharp blade of a whistle that shattered the infernal dullness settling over Miss Phillips. Startled, the boy looked up, then jumped to his feet.

“I’ll see you get to the reverend’s, and all your precious books and things too,” Fletch said.

“Yessuh,” the boy stood panting before them, hopping on one bare foot as he scratched the other ankle.

“Billy, this is Miss Phillips. She’s your new School marm.”

Nice to meet you, Billy. She smiled at the boy, barely looking down.

“And you, ma’am. Gosh, a school marm.”

“Think you can haul that trunk over to the reverend’s? Miss Phillips is stayin’ there for the time being.”

“Heck, yeah,” he grabbed hold of the trunk and dragged it a few paces.

“And mind you take care, boy,“ Fletch warned, “Miss Phillips needs all those books and things. Reverend Krane says she’s some kind of scholar and we’re lucky to have her.”

*jm*

After The Whirlwind

Yes, I am home again after my intensive weeklong training. First I must extend my deep appreciation and high praise for Guide Dogs for the Blind–for their commitment to keeping blind folks up and moving and working toward our best selves. Their Orientation and mobility Immersion program has certainly jump-started me in the right direction.

I won’t go into details here, but suffice it to say that I learned much aboutmyself, about my currents needs for improvement, and have acquired the budding skills and newfound motivation to move forward.

But the week wasn’t all work. I also made a few new friends whose examples and support will no doubt keep me going.

And because my instructor was French, I also learned a few new words:

crow- corbeau

hummingbird- colibri

goldfish- poison rouge

and have decided to put aside my Spanish text and resumestudying French…the French R’s come more naturally to me anyway.

For now I am off to get re-acquainted with my neighborhood sidewalks. Using a cane is so very different than cruising alongside a canine teammate.

But hopefully that will come in time.

*smile*

On One Foot

On One Foot

…brief tidbits about me and those I love

*Cool autumn nights and sunny afternoons have me giddily skipping through my days lately. The sunflowers are readying to open, ranging in height from six to eleven feet tall. The hummingbirds flit from their feeders to the fuchsia and back again, while the crows call to one another across the yard. My kind of bliss!

*Meanwhile, I am making lists and packing my bags for a bit of intensive Orientation and Mobility training ath the California campus of Guide Dogs for the Blind. No, I won’t be coming home with a new teammate…and I’m as disappointed as you are. What I will return with are the skills and confidence to apply for another dog. So please cross your fingers and toes that I soak up everything I need in the Jam-packed week I’ll be there.

*For now, I will delight in the doggy company of Bucky–who, would you believe, still seems to be growing! In fact, J and I will be visiting him later today.

*My only regret is that I will miss Yom Kippor with my community this year. I was on GDB’s waiting list for over 5 months, and the opening came up quite unexpectedly. I had planned to chant my usual Torah verses, virtually of course. Fortunately, the rabbi was able to prerecord me a few days ago, and said he is excited for this big step I’m taking.

*I’m excited too…although a twinge of nerves sneaks in now and then. Everything new is like that though. A few butterflies to accompany the Life traveler. And after all, I do like butterflies!

Wishing you Love and Light, my Darlings!

What’s Happened to Kindness and Empathy #empathy #compassion #pandemic

*A very mindful reflection, thank you dear friend!*

The Light Behind the Story

Image by Vicki Nunn from Pixabay

I live in a typical upper middle-class American town. People are kind when it’s convenient, and unkind, I suspect more often than most realize. At least these days. It is a place where behind closed doors comparisons are made and unkind remarks are uttered, but it is also a town where, more and more, unkind words are uttered in public. Especially on platforms like social media.

We have a town FB page that was created with the intention to build community. Whenever I go on it, I find posts where people are mocked and attacked. This is not community. This is not kindness. This is not empathy. This is not, I am sure, the only town like this is America. Or in the world right now. We are living in an era of extreme polarization fed by fear and hatred. More often than not…

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Happy New Year!

“New Year? But it’s September”, you say, “what’s this about a new year?”

Ah, but you have to think Jewishly. You have to follow the moon rather than the sun.

Rosh HaShanah, the head of the year according to the Jewish calendar, occurs this year on the evening of September 6–this actually being New Year’ss Eve. So, the New Year is definitely nearly here.

And to prepare, we think deep thoughts. Thoughts about our relationships with those we love. Thoughts about our relationships with those we don’t love.

And we try to improve those relationships. We apologize for the things we did wrong. and we strive to do better with the rest.

And as for God…

Well, we come to God when all our human relationships have at least been attended to as best we can. We sincerely ask forgiveness of thos we may have offended three times, then we move on, striving to also care for ourselves, and trusting that God will honor the effort.

Only then do we approach the Divine One.

We bow in reverence, knowing that we are not all we could be.

And ten days later on Yom Kippor, we join with our community in acknowledging transgressions committed knowingly and unknowingly.

And we take up the responsibility for our behavior, past and future, heading with renewed vigor into a new year or promise.

Yes, the New Year is coming. May I strive to be all that I can in its wake, to be a truer witness of holiness and embodiment of Divinity in the world.

May this be a time of blessing and revelation to any who read this little blog!

Wishing you l’shanah tovah umetukah!

*a good and sweet year*

Reflections on Psalm 9

the curtain of night withdraws

and I am eased out of dreaming

feel Your world awaken in me

sweet as birdsong

swelling with the breeze

every breath an invitation

to come back to You

and my soul delights

Your tapestry of Light unfolds

the beauty of Creation

streams of pulsing shadow

flicker silver and gold

how can I resist

the air itself glistens

the beauty of Creation

the dazzling of greens and blues

the surprise of reds and golds

the tenderness of violets

and I open myself

ears and eyes and consciousness

open myself to all You bring

to all I am in You

leaf on the tree

*Again I find myself sighing in agreement, “yes, oh yes!”*

earth sky air

i am but a leaf on the tree
a petal on the flower
i am only one feather on the wing
what can i do
i feel the buffeting winds 
trace the sun’s inevitable path
abide in the falling rain
it is not enough to simply bear witness
as this strange scythe now makes its brutal swings
i do not wither and fall
but flutter with song
bloom with fierce color 
soar in defiance on the winds of spirit
i grow whole and full
abundant in my many dimensions
knowing i am essential 
for i am the weathered oak, the burgeoning lupine, 
i am the heron poised and ready at the river’s edge
i stand beyond the blindly grasping sweep
laughing
i am truth

###

Stand for Freedom

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