Thursday, October 8, 2015

To the Baby in Front of Me by Jessica Kotnour

FYI. Two years ago Jessica won one of the 5 Under 25 scholarships to the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference. Here is a good example of why.

To the Baby in Front of Me

You don’t know me. I don’t know you. Our paths seem to have crossed. You’re in the seat in front of me, on a flight from Columbus to Orlando. I’m sure you’re going to Disney. Or maybe to visit your grandparents. You are in your mother’s arms. You are laughing, even if you were crying, it would be okay. You are in a flying tube. You are allowed to cry.

You’re standing up now on your mother’s legs. Stand there as long as you can. Let her be your rock. Your foundation. Grip your tiny toes into her quads. Dig deep. Leave marks.

You keep looking around. Observing. I wish the top of the plane were glass so that you could see all of the clouds. They’re so much prettier when you are in them than they are from the ground. Well, they are still pretty from the ground as well. 

Your sister keeps peaking her head back and smiling at me. She’s reading a book. I hope that she never stops reading.  If she ever needs a book, you call me and I’ll make sure you get one. 

Your sister just handed your dad a sticker. What a special gift. I pray that he saves it. Sticks in on the car window. Sticks it on his phone. Sticks it on his heart.

You are so very young, too young to be forming memories. By the time you’re my age, you’ll have formed so many memories, but you’ll have even more to form. Some of them will be good. Some will make you cry.  Most of them will involve your favorite people, maybe your parents, or your friend, or your first dog. I want to tell you to form memories of every moment. But you can’t. I am sorry about that. Try to remember the small things. The way your mom’s legs feel underneath your feet right now.  The way your sister gives the most meaningful gifts, like stickers. If you have a dog, remember the way it feels when he falls asleep on your feet. Hug him often. Hug everyone often.

When you get older, scary things might start to happen. Tumors will be found in your best friend’s leg. You won’t be able to shower because the floor has MRSA. You will be so scared, but you will never be alone. 
I’m on this flight now, heading back from college. Heading back home. Back to my mother’s legs. I’ll lay on the couch with her tonight and my unshaven legs and hers will be next to each other, with the dog laying on both of our feet. 

You are crying now.  I am crying now. 

Your sister keeps smiling at me. And I keep smiling back.  She’s missing some teeth. She is not fully formed, but neither am I. Neither is anyone. 

The flight attendant is coming through now. We are about to land. I hope that you enjoyed your flight, but if it was scary and stressful, that is okay. No one expects you to be able to handle everything. 
For now, all we are asked to do is to stand on our mother’s legs and take it all in.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Can you guess what this is?
Living life raft 
News cast from South Carolina

The first time I saw a raft like this was after drenching rains in Texas. I was so astonished when I realized what it was that I nipped the image to create a scene in Lost in the River of Grass. Readers, do you remember where it is?
Published September 22, 2013 at 3264 × 2448 in Ant raft .

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Chimps Face Abandonment

 I quietly posted this last week because there was no way to help. Now there is.
 How we can Help
AP Photo

A group of 66 tame chimpanzees used for US medical testing faces being abandoned on six Liberian islands amid a potential funding crisis. The animals are those left from 108 chimps used for biomedical research carried out by a New York-based charity, Blood Center.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Uncle Charlie

Charlie and my birth mother, Ruth
On July 3rd, my uncle Charlie died. Twenty years ago in September 1995, Lee Nichols, editor of The Outlook, a small Mendocino paper, invited me to write about finding my birth mother. Charlie, Ruth, and my half-sister, Lynn, subsequently became character-names in my novel, Hurt Go Happy.

If it hadn't been for Charlie's kind and generous heart, I probably would never have met any of them: My mother, my sister, her five sons, my cousins--all of whom I resemble. In his honor, here is that story: 

AWAY GROWING OLD                                                       
 September 1995

I have been away growing old is a line from a poem by Dave Smith, an acquaintance of mine. It is what I would like to tell my mother, if I meet her.
            I've created an image of her fifty years ago, a young girl, pressing my tiny hand to her lips, then passing me to a stranger who took me away to be raised by other strangers. I'd like to reassure her that there was no right or wrong in the act. I know only what was revealed to me on the course my life took from that moment on. I do not believe in greener grass, just as I don’t believe that each choice made has a black and white side, is right or wrong. To have kept me would have been right if she could have; to give me up was just as correct a choice. Only when the choices are nearly equally impossible to make, do we feel the one we made must have been wrong. She should not grieve.
            Three years ago, after twenty-five years of searching to my own dead ends, I enlisted the aid of an organization that specializes in putting adoptees and their biological parents in touch with each other. A few months later they called to tell me that my father was dead but they had found my mother, did I want to call her or should they? I chose for them to call. She was sorry, they said, but she couldn’t see me. Since then, I have wished I had chosen to call myself. Would she have said no to me?
            Last week, Jack, an attorney friend of my husband’s was going to the town where she lives. My husband, whose choices rarely confuse him, had him call her. A man answered. Jack told him who he was and that he was just calling to ask a few questions. The man said he was my mother’s brother, could he help in some way? Jack said no, it was a private matter.
            I do believe we are sometimes given second chances.
            “Is this about her other daughter?” my mother’s brother asked.
           "You know about her?" Jack asked.
           "I'm the only one who does."
           My uncle went on to say how happy he was Jack called. He was visiting because my mother had open-heart surgery and was recovering at my (half) sister’s house.
            I have a good friend who believes what ails us is an outward manifestation of where our grief and pain is. A sore throat comes from a voice we stifle; a stomach ache from grief we swallow. I think, if my friend is right, there may now be room for me in my mother’s heart.
            My uncle will be home from the visit with my mother the first of August. He wants to know me. He said, “Tell her she has an Uncle Charlie who wants to meet her.”
             So now, a half century later, it works out that on my 51st birthday, I will see the first blood relative I have ever known. Someone who may say to me, “Why you look just like . . .” And I’m hoping that between Uncle Charlie and open-heart surgery, my mother will accept this message: I’ve been away growing old and in all that time, I have learned all about pain and joy and losses and rewards. I believe that the same door that opened for her two year ago is open again, and beyond it—through it—is simply her other daughter.

Charles Grether
October 19, 1926 - July 3, 2015

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I'm going hog wild . . .

No posts for 6 months, now you can't shut me up.

Image result for captive orcas

 Does ‘Jurassic World’ remind you of ‘Blackfish’? How a dinosaur movie tackled animal rights. By Emily Yahr

This article compares the treatment of these dinosaurs to the treatment of captive Orcas. 
Think about it!

Image result for jurassic world 

Image result for jurassic world
Image result for captive orcas

Sunday, June 21, 2015

This isn't my Public Shtick, but...

  I grew up in central Florida in the 50s and 60s, and God love 'em, my parents were racists. They hated JFK, MLK, and LBJ. They adored Lucinda, our black housekeeper for nearly two decades. Daddy called crying when she died. 

The article that motivated me to write this out-of-purview post is below. It coupled with the outlandish, offensive, bigoted statement about Mexicans by "The Donald" --a national embarrassment and Republican presidential candidate, makes it impossible for me to stay quiet. Besides, I've been there, done that.

It didn't take a college education or a graduate degree for me to recognize how wrong my parents were. It took a 1963 bus ride. My moment of insight is on my website: 
A Vote for Lucinda --if you're interested.

Some of you may be thinking I should just stick to my little animal stories, but the belief that we have the God-given right to lord our superiority over even the smallest, most defenseless of other species is what I write about. It stems from exactly the same mind(less) set as racism. It's called speciesism--the belief that the human race is superior to other species, and that exploitation of animals for the advantage of humans is justified.  Encarta ® World English Dictionary ©

I think following article is important to consider. I hope you feel the same. And to my readers in Europe, Asia, South America, and especially in Mexico, we won't actually elect The Donald, or Ted Cruz. I'm almost positive.

 Anti-intellectualism Is Killing America | Psychology Today

"In considering the senseless loss of nine lives in Charleston, of course racism jumps out as the main issue. But isn’t ignorance at the root of racism? And it’s true that the bloodshed is a reflection of America's violent, gun-crazed culture, but it is only our aversion to reason as a society that has allowed violence to define the culture. Rational public policy, including policies that allow reasonable restraints on gun access, simply isn't possible without an informed, engaged, and rationally thinking public." 
For the entire article...

Thursday, June 18, 2015

If Corporations are People . . .

File picture of chimpanzees at a zoo in Sydney

 A judge in New York has issued a writ of habeas corpus in a case brought by animal rights activists on behalf of two chimpanzees.

Personhood could end this.

I haven't done a post in six months. It's certainly not because I had nothing to say or there weren't animal abuses going on, or good news to report. I've been working on a couple of projects. One, of course, is How to Speak Dolphin, my new novel about an non-verbal autistic child and a captive dolphin. It's out now and available in bookstores--especially your local independent bookstore. 

 I guess this post is part ad for HTSD, so I might as well add that the e-book version of Dolphin Sky, which I rewrote a year or so ago, is on sale through Kobo, Nook, Kindle, and iBook.

My other excuse: I've been researching my first attempt at writing historical fiction. When I returned from a research trip to Texas, Cory, my 16 year old cat, was blind. She coped far better than I did, but every moment of the rest of her life became precious. She spent the next seven months on a pillow in a desk drawer at my elbow as I wrote. She died May 21st. I suppose her decline and loss has made it hard for me to feel strongly about anything else.  

I have a new favorite quote. From MC Davis
 "I can't change people your age," he says, "but give me a fourth-grader."

 Chimpanzee before his wedding at a zoo in Hefei in China