Sometimes of a Christmas Day

 A sleep-in, all cuddly and snug, with fresh coffee to clear my head,
Then it was off to the valleys, the mountains and coast
Where clouds scurried overhead like imaginary ghosts.

Winter in valleys and pastures alike found trees bare with mist rising,
For the rains had just stopped and the sun shone in full glare
Spreading a pearly softness throughout the air.

A car, here and there, appeared on the road, each destination unknown.
New calves and lambs on hillsides were grazing
There in the long valley called so greenfully amazing.

Down from the hills, onto the plain, impromptu streams poured great froth.
There, Old Watson School since 1856 has kept watch,
Past the lambs wool store and the blooming broom so Scotch.

Soon came Bodega, Victorian in every windowpane and bright light,
We paused to remember all those years long ago,
When the field wasn’t Landscape but land for food to grow.

At Highway One, the big houses and eucalyptus trees so out of place
Are rocking to rhythms from the wind unheard,
And the little bay town, so busy in summer, lies undisturbed.

We stop at Salmon Creek, shed ourselves of the Blue Noise, and take to the trail.
High tide had the ocean climbing the steep beach,
Tossing foam and debris within easy reach.

I graze the sand for treasures, hoping to remake a mobile of my youth.
Instead of odd trinkets of metal and glass,
I am left with an old tire, plastic garbage, no brass.

Winds grab at my long hair and I feel the cold sting of the Pacific calling,
Reminding me of another time in this place
When pregnancy and youth set the pace.

On the road again, following the steep winding path of One’s devious way,
Comes a hot brandy hard won, and famed Timber Cove lunch
Where the swans have long since left, the whole bunch.

Just another tourist, watching the surf beating on the rocks below,
Counting egrets, crumpled old fences and tin barns,
Until the day shrinks and of nighttime it warns.

Up Old Ross Road, away from the Russian Fort so historic,
We climb through the tunnel of wet redwoods and oak,
Giant ferns and huge gulleys all asoak.

Waterfalls emerge, jumping from ledge to ledge and surprise us some more
As the mountains close in and cup us in their grasp
Little of daylight breaks through as we pass.

Suddenly the land jumps to open nature’s door, bring us to rolling meadow.
Here is the sun, brilliant sky and deep crevasses.
Here hang the silvered grey Spanish mosses.

The black ribbon road continues to weave its way through the mountains,
Past the old stage coach stop with its wondrous old view,
Past lonesome country retreat and family homes, too.

Like Dasher, Dancer and crew, we whirl onward this Christmas Day.
Weathered and tumbling down old fences have one story to tell,
And so do the white orange posts from fiber optic hell.

The land levels down near Montgomery School and brings us to Cazadero
Where the redwoods were carved from the soil,
Bringing men hungry for the chance to toil.

A few hardy souls can be seen as we go, but mostly lights and windows glow.
From the smoke in the chimneys now haunting the air,
We know crackling fires are set before many a chair.

We leave the mountains and forest nearly behind as we enter River Road.
Home buildings multiply and cattle dwindle
Where the Russian River churns like thread on a spindle.

It’s homeward we’re bound, as the towns rush by and collide,
Pushing us past Northwoods to Korbel’s gate,
Now vineyards, now river, now lagoon in flood state.

Sometimes of a Christmas Day, things happen to renew our life.
Such was the year in two thousand and three,
When Hubby and me set out for Sonoma County to see.

Arletta Dawdy
December 25, 2003

Remembering Jessa


December 15, 1991-July 30, 2009


The Persian poet Kahlil Gibran has written:

          “When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”

          Remembering Jessica with delight is what I hope for today.

We celebrated my husband’s birthday on our first meeting more than seven years ago. She was shy, quiet, just a little intimidated.  As Greek music played and the dancers twirled, she gave it up and went to sleep, resting her head on Kim’s lap. From then on, she became an important part of our lives…our oldest grandchild.

At Christmas and her birthday, my challenge was to find Chinese or Vietnamese treasures to delight her, while she loved to choose just the right gifts for others.

Sometimes Jessa delighted in outraging her adults…in music, in dress, in argument and hassle. Other times, a giggle, a laugh, a joke I didn’t get reminded me of her zany self.

She loved to multi-task:  baking, eating, watching TV and texting away at the same time. Jessa would sigh dramatically and fix it when I couldn’t figure out simple cell-phone maneuvers.

I wanted much for her in life: to eat her vegetables(she’s arguing with Granddad  Jim about that one;) to be a strong person, a good friend, a better student and to belch quietly; I wanted her to be surrounded with the love she gave others…and  continues to give us in memory, in our hearts.

Why I Write, Part 2

On my Facebook page, I commented on David Corbett’s article in the current Writer’s Digest. The piece is titled: Hooked on a Feeling: The Emotion-Driven Method of Crafting Compelling Characters. It is an excellent article, full of good concepts. But for me, the word “compelling” jumped into my figurative headlights.

When a writer is asked why they write, the answer is invariably along the lines of “because I can’t NOT write.” Some will call it a compulsion, an addiction or to make money, feed my family. A few will confess it’s a hobby, a pastime, better than television. Some will say to educate, entertain, get my message out, leave something for the kids, or just maybe, they’ll state their belief that they “have a book in me.” With that last one, the person is liable to ask the next writer they meet to write the book for them.  

I am compelled to write. It hasn’t always been this way, especially through high school and most of college when my first bluebook (yes, I’m dating myself) was a bare page and a half. Then, onionskin paper, carbon paper, mom’s 1930’s typewriter and erasures made term papers an all night production.  By graduate school, I was writing my first and last draft at the same typewriter, ideas and words already plotted out.

Social workers record their client contacts, recalling what was said or acted on. Describing the setting whether home, neighborhood, school or business gives important clues to a family’s life. Welfare workers in years past looked for men’s clothing tossed about; street gang workers look for the chains, knives (now automatic guns,) drugs and other paraphernalia of the life; therapists take into account the self-care of their client (BO, unwashed hair and clothes, rotting teeth,) in assessing emotional state. The fine tooth comb is applied by the observer’s sensitivity to surroundings, interactions, appearances, weaknesses and strengths. Fiction writers do much the same.

I write because I am compelled to deal with issues of the human condition. Characters and story lines evolve for me in drowsy day dreams or clear thinking, in night dreams and memories. They all but stand up and do a shout out: TELL THE STORY, MY STORY.

And so I start with a word at a time, a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph. I will reread at the end of the day and the beginning of the next. I’ll search for poor word choice, question if I’ve conveyed what I wanted to or I’ll see if the character is taking me into unknown and unexpected territory. Then, I will be compelled to put a new word, phrase and all that follows into the computer and see the magic unfold. The process is sometimes very difficult, when the words don’t come, when the character seems to be getting away from me, when I’m sure it is all unadulterated trash.

That’s when I’ll check my email, read blogs that I know will have pearls of wisdom and seek out other writers. I’ll turn to my journal and often find my way out of the hole in the process of going inside myself. Reading a really good book holds the danger of showing me I was right, my work is trash. That’s usually short-lived because the compelling drive to get the story out renews itself and I’m back at the computer, or in the park using pen and paper, breaking the routine to escape the rut I got into and finding the magic repeating itself. The words flow, new characters emerge, twists occur and the tension of the story builds.

I’m right where I need to be. I’m writing.