Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The King & I

Summer is the season for new adventures, and this one has been no exception! This past week I traveled with my dear friend Pat to Graceland, Elvis's home in Memphis, Tennessee. Pat had never been, and she's writing a book that required some research, so off we went!

It wasn't my first time to visit Graceland. Paul and I went in 2013. But it was my first time to stay at the Guesthouse at Graceland (like Disney World, except for Elvis!), and to go during crazy-busy summer, and to ride in a pink Cadillac (a service for hotel guest dining at Marlowe's  -- which was delicious!).

It was also my first time to see an actual Elvis movie all the way through! (Of course I've seen clips.) It was another offering from the hotel, shown in their ginormous theater: JAILHOUSE ROCK. I sort of can't believe how much I enjoyed it.

So I'm a bit young for the Elvis craze, but I sure can respect and admire his rise to fame, and how he brought something different to popular music. In fact, it was a quote from his first producer Sam Phillips (who also "discovered" Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and others)  that caught my eye, and reminded me of the creative life, the marketplace, and what it takes to "make it" in a creative industry:

"If you're not doing something different, you're not doing anything." - Sam Phillips

The best part of the trip, however, wasn't Elvis-related at all, but book-love related: we lunched with a sweet group of Mississippi (just a short drive from Memphis!) librarians at The Beauty Shop (a converted restaurant space, where Priscilla once got her hair done). As my father (who was a true-blue Elvis fan) would say: "the food was delicious, and the company was outstanding!" Thanks, ladies!! So happy to know you.

 Here's a picture of the group, as taken by one o so talented daughter who joined us for the meal:

Librarians are the best!

Friday, June 22, 2018


Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Michelle Kogan for Roundup.

Summer is for reading, right? And I've been doing as much of that as possible. Today I'd like to share with you some bits from KNOCKOUT by K.A. Holt. I love this book! It's a companion to HOUSE ARREST, which I also loved. Fast-forward 11 years, and enter the mind of Levi (the baby who was sick in the first book).

Now rewind to 2016 when I sat on a panel with Kari Anne at TLA as part of Sylvia Vardell's Poetry Round Up. I loved hearing Kari Anne talk about her books. And in KNOCKOUT, I really love Levi's voice. He's tired of being the sick kid, and when he discovers boxing... well, it does play a part in changing his life!

Here are a few passages from the book I found particularly wonderful:

When I hit the bag
it stopped all my thoughts
and I'm just ... in the moment...

an animal
not a boy
a beast
a different
We all should have something in our lives that makes us feel that way, yes? For me, it's cello-ing.

Trust can't really be explained
because it's a feeling
like love.
But it's kind of more than that
because trust has long arms
and an open face
and it believes the words 
you say.

Love can't be lost
when it comes to moms
but trust can
curl back its arms
close off its face
and disappear
a puff of smoke
a memory
nothing left for you to hold on to.
Nothing left for you to do.

Nice distinction between love and trust, isn't it?

It's not just that I want to hit people
or that I like to hit people,
really it's not.
(OK, sometimes it is.)
It's that I like to fee strong.
I like to feel ten feet tall.
And when I am slap dash fast
when I pop and feint
when I dart and jab
I am so fast
I am so strong
I get in my hits
not because I want to hurt someone
but because
it makes me not hurt

I love that explanation!! I think many of us do hurtful things to stop the hurting...

This past year has been bananas
so this year I'd like bananas
and whipped cream.

Ha! Pretty sure I am having myself a bananas and whipped cream year right now. :) This book is a cherry on top! I do hope you'll give it a whirl. xo

Thursday, June 21, 2018

First Day of Summer Poem

To celebrate this sweet-taffy day, I give you a short poem for the longest day of the year:

Sun Speaks on the First Day of Summer

O devoted Moon,
thank you
for your light!

Say --
why don't you
sleep in  

- Irene Latham

Friday, June 15, 2018

A Wildflower Walk

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Karen Edmisten for Roundup.

Today is my beloved niece's wedding, so I'm putting on my party dress. Will be great to see her and the groom and other members of my family! More on this later.

Every day Paul and I walk the old country road where we live. It's great exercise, and our dog Ruby loves her leash-free runs into the woods -- and back to us. One of the things we're enjoying is the bounty of plant life, especially wildflower. Here are some pics from this week... if you are a flower person, I would love some help identifying these!


black-eyed susan






Pretty colorful, right? And next week it will probably look completely different. All in nature is temporary... which makes me wonder why we humans so often crave permanence...

It also reminds me of this poem by Walter de la Mare, which appears in a book gifted me by sweet Linda!

Come - Gone

Gone the snowdrop- come the crocus;
With the tulip blows the squill;
jonquil white as wax between them,
And the nid-nod daffodil.

Peach, plum, cherry, pear and apple,
Rain-sweet lilac on the spray;
Come the dog-rose in the hedges-
Gone's the sweetness of the may.

- Walter de la Mare

Thanks so much for visiting!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

TINY INFINITIES & a Firefly Poem

I've just finished TINY INFINITIES by J.H. Diehl. It's a middle grade novel about a friendship, and changes, and things out of our control. It has a glow to it, much like the fireflies on its cover (and in its pages)!
I'll start by sharing a few quotes, and then a poem inspired by the quotes:

“We're going to call a firefly with your magic wand,” I went on. “You'll like fireflies, because they don't use sounds to find other fireflies. Only their lights. The way they flash on and off is code to talk to each other. So you don't have to talk, either. You can use light language.”


“Here are my fireflies, “ I said. “Well, they're not mine. They belong to summertime, but I know you liked them before. Maybe they're your friends, Piper.”

And now the poem:

To a Child of Summertime

Show me your light language,
speak to me with glow and flash.

Run with me through a thicket
until we are both breathless,

our speech prickly with brambles
and sweat.

Swim with me in these gin-tinted waters,
our legs pulsing promises:

save me.

                  I'm yours.

Does the breeze still tease
your damp hair to whippoorwills?

I would catch you, hold you,
but not in a jar, no –

I carry you on my chest,
an ambush of freckles.

- Irene Latham

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Latest Adventures of Me and Lady Godiva

photo by my sweet sis Lynn
of me practicing wet-headed
(as I often do!)
Three-and-a-half years ago I started playing the cello.

Two years ago I walked into Atlanta Violins and came out with Lady Godiva - my very own instrument. And we're still making music together. Though she has a few new nicks than she had when I first brought her home... and her strings probably could be replaced... and the bow most definitely has shed some hair!

We've performed with Birmingham Cello Project a few times, which has been lovely! I also graduated from Suzuki Book 4. :) Which means I can play a couple of minuets from Bach's cello suite 1 -- pieces I'm told I will play the rest of my cello-life.

Now I am learning the first piece in Suzuki Book 5 - Sonata in E minor by Vivaldi. I kind of love it. Though I am still struggling with intonation and drawing the bow straight (especially on the A string) and double stops and keeping my hand in the proper position and and and... so much to learn!

I did have a wonderful, encouraging thing happen this past week. I was practicing when the termite bond guy came around to inspect the house. When my husband was signing off on the paperwork, the termite bond guy asked who was playing the cello. He said he'd never heard a cello in real life before (yet he knew it was a cello!), and how beautiful it was.

So, yeah, I think I may have found my audience: people who've never heard the instrument in real life before. :) Totally made my day and has renewed my enthusiasm. Thank you, termite bond guy!

See? Just like poems, music is meant to be shared... you don't have to be a maestro. (Just typing the words I need to hear...)

Meanwhile, I am very much looking forward to Adult Strings Weekend at University of Alabama.

Friday, June 8, 2018

How the Dead Live On, Let Me Count the Ways

The 8-1-1 section of my studio
features several "Papa" mementos:
"Go Away I'm Reading"
is one of them!
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Kiesha at Whispers from the Ridge for Roundup.

Today marks the two year anniversary of my father's death. One of the biggest surprises in my life is how my relationship with my father continues to evolve. So many things continue to make me feel close to him, and I love the ways he continues to "live."

Whether it is a friend telling me about her visit to Corinne Costin Gibson Memorial Public Library (Port St. Joe, FL) where she sat in my dad's rocker...

read more about
this special rocker here
... Or seeing my father's words in print as I did when Birmingham Arts Journal ran my father's story about his hometown of Port St. Joe, FL (a paper-mill town) titled "A Smell of Sulfur" (You can read it here, p. 12.)... these things help me feel connected to him.

Then there are things that slay me utterly and unexpectedly, like an email I received from an acquaintance of mine/friend of my father's:

"I must also share with you a special story about your Dad, which occurred after his death. C, my husband, was in the St. A’s emergency room, close to dying, and in and out of consciousness, when he suddenly said he was visiting with Ken Dykes. He could see him as well.  He was very comforted by that experience - as was I. 

Your Dad was a comfort to so many, at the Cancer Center and at St. Georges, and we treasured our friendship with him. I wanted you to know that he brought comfort to C, even after death. C himself died a few weeks after that emergency room stay."

Thinking of my father somewhere waiting for me -- and comforting others along the way -- just destroys me and uplifts me. I have found so much comfort in that.

I also received a letter I want to share here about my father's stories, which he wrote diligently, in the last years of his life. One of our last conversations was about how to structure the book we were going to create -- not surprisingly, his ideas for organization were different than mine-- and we'd hoped to get the book out for Christmas 2016. He died before that could happen. So I have been sharing his stories whenever I think of it. Here is one response:

Any writer would love reading these words: "Every story that he has written comes to life." That's the goal, isn't it?

And now I'd like to share a poem I discovered in HOME: Where Everyone is Welcome: Poems & Songs Inspired by American Immigrants by Deepak Chopra, Kabir Sehgal, Paul Avgerinos. I learned about this book on a Poetry Friday Roundup earlier this year (though I can't remember who posted about it... maybe Diane?) To whomever: THANK YOU!

Here is the poem:

Inspired by Krishan Chopra

If awareness is existence
You have existed in me
From when I first became aware
And now
If awareness is life
Then you have been my life
Since I incarnated into experience
And now
From the stories you told
To the magnificent hero you were
I am
Because you were
And are
We exist in the awareness
Where I is thou
Thou is me
In every 
Thanks so much for reading!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

#lakelife Spiritual Journey Thursday June edition

front porch chalkboard message
Hello and Happy Spiritual Journey Thursday! Be sure to visit Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for Roundup. Our topic today is "summer."

I actually posted earlier this week about some things I've been struggling with -- always obstacles on the Journey -- so today I wanted to share a few of the ways I'm enjoying summer so far.

As some of you may recall, our baby boy graduated high school last month and departed the day after for his summer camp counselor job. So we are adjusting to the empty nest! (We did see him last night, so yay for that!) AND there's been all sorts of other things going on in our lives, what with birthdays and sale of our house and me working on a new book... but really, all of that fades during these juicy-sweet June days.

Top 3 Ways I'm Spending My Time this June:

1. Swimming, with dog Ruby looking on... she hasn't been brave enough yet to jump in. Maybe today?

2. Reading/Writing/Dreaming on the dock. One great thing about not-great internet: more poems swim their way to me!

3. Lake-watching. This never gets old. Whatever the weather, whatever time of day... I am 24-7 inspired.

Looking forward to reading about everyone else's thoughts on summer!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Finding the Answer to my Writing Problem

This post is going to be a little bit backwards: Instead of first telling you what my writing problem is, I am going to start with the answer -- and not surprisingly (at least for this book loving gal), the answer has come in the form of a book: THE BOOK OF JOY: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams. I read it a few months ago on my Kindle. Here are some quotes that spoke to me:

Impermanence, the Dalai Lama reminds us, is the nature of life. All things are slipping away, and there is a real danger of wasting our precious human life. Gratitude helps us catalog, celebrate, and rejoice in each day and each moment before they slip through the vanishing hourglass of experience.
As part of ARTSPEAK! Portraits, I wrote a poem titled Gratitude.

Gratitude, as we have seen, is an important part of joy because it allows us to savor life and to recognize that most of our good fortune in life comes from others.
The book offers this as a "Joy Practice:"

Gratitude: Think of three or more people or things that you are grateful for in this problem of your life right now. Can you find ways in which your problem is actually contributing to your life and growth? Are there people or things that are supporting you to face this challenge?

storm rolling in
(while we were boating)
The problem I am having right now is this: I am feeling a little lost and not-quite-there-yet with a work-in-progress --- and it's due July 1. There's no time to wander. It's got to be done NOW. I feel under pressure, probably mostly from myself: I want this to be the best book ever!

So when I apply this practice to my problem, here's what I've got:

3 people/things I am grateful for:
1. my editor and agent -- for having the opportunity to write this book at all.
2. my writing partner -- I am not alone!
3. the subject matter of the book is really making me think about what's important to me. I mean, it brought me back to the BOOK OF JOY, right? :)

almost home
Yes, I am growing through this process. I am writing things I'd never have written before. Yes, it's hard. But I've got support from so many corner of my life -- and blessedly, this slow-down season and this beautiful (lake) environment to cushion me as I do the work.

I'm going to keep at it -- with joy! Because yes, this moment, our lives, are impermanent. And yes, I'm grateful. xo

Friday, June 1, 2018

Birds Art Life Poetry

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Buffy's Blog for Roundup.

Last month dear friend Jeannine gave me a copy of BIRDS ART LIFE: A Year of Observation by Kyo Maclear (who happens to also create books for children)-- because the book helped her get through a long winter.
Appropriate, right, for 2018, Year of the Bird?
And super fitting for me, as our lives have been greatly enhanced by a new bird feeding station outside our bedroom window. Oh my, the birds we've met! House finch and goldfinch and cardinal and tufted titmouse and bald eagles (not at the feeder, but nearby!) and and and... so many birds! So I thought I would share with you a few of the passages from the book that really spoke to me:

our bird feeding station

"Part of being open, I decided, meant cultivating a better kind of attention. I wanted to achieve the benevolent and capacious attention that the be-scarfed artist and the bird-loving musician showed the world."

"My usual (nonmaternal) attention had three strains. There was the dogged attention I gave my art, the boxed-in attention I gave to my devices and screens, and the durational attention I (sometimes) gave to challenging books/art/films. All these seemingly dissimilar forms of attention had something in common: they were on their way someplace. They sought a reward, a product purchase, a narrative connection."

"Poetry captures the elusive nature of birds, but it is science that allows us to see them with precision and grace. The best books captured the sweet spot between poetic not-knowing and scientific knowing."

our bird identification book
"A spark bird could be as bold as an eagle, as colorful as a warbler, or as ordinary as a sparrow, as long as it triggered the “awakening” that turned someone into a serious birder. Most birding memoirs begin with a spark bird."

"Our courage comes out in different ways. We are brave in our willingness to carry on even as our pounding hearts say, “You will fail and land on your face.” Brave in our terrific tolerance for making a hundred mistakes. Day after day. We are brave in our persistence."

"Now when I hear birdsong, I feel an entry to that understory. When I am feeling too squeezed on the ground, exhausted by everything in my care, I look for a little sky. There are always birds flying back and forth, city birds flitting around our human edges, singing their songs."

"If the wind is going the right way, some birds like to spread their wings and hang in the air, appearing not to move a bit. It is a subtle skill, to remain appreciably steady amid the forces of drift and gravity, to be neither rising nor falling."

"The birders I encountered in books and in the world shared little except this simple secret: if you listen to birds, every day will have a song in it."
I do hope you will give this book a read! And of course it brings to mind "bird" poems. Who among us does NOT have a bird poem? Here's one of mine, inspired by grief and loss:

Life Without Birds

You appear just before dawn
to ask what it’s like
without you. I push through

the quicksand, gauging
the weight of forest
as it presses against my body,

a whole country of spruce,
pine, and cedar surrounding me.
I don’t want to burden you

with what you’ve done,
so I say I miss the birds.
Is there any deeper truth?

No wings flashing from
blackberry brambles,
no careful nest in the eaves,

no graceful, raucous Vs.
The loss of song
is the part I won’t admit,

no matter how tenderly
you press your fingers
against my eyelids.

- Irene Latham

and two more from ARTSPEAK!

Thanks so much for reading! My goal today is to write a new bird poem.... actually the goal was to post it here, but lots going on with son's college orientation, the closing for the sale of our house, and sweet husband's birthday... so I'll have to sneak in some writing time later this afternoon. Wheeee!