See Lori’s blog.

Imposter in the Woods
by Lori Goshert

The call of a cardinal echoes through the trees. A brown anole skitters up a palm trunk, pausing to listen and bob her head.

With one finger jammed between the pages of my book to mark the place, I crane my neck to peer under the lounge chair, seeking the fat brown ant that disappeared underneath. I examine the back rails to make sure the insect is not making her way toward me, and I shake out my discarded shoes. I regard the jumping spider on the arm of the chair with suspicion—I do not fear spiders, but the unpredictability of jumping insects and arachnids unnerves me. I like knowing where things are and where they are going. Especially if they’re creepy.

I consider myself a lover of nature, even presuming to write about birds and environmental issues. But I keep nature at arm’s length—a long-distance romance.

I devour documentaries of faraway rainforests, reveling in the flight of scarlet and green parrots and the majestic decisiveness of jaguars. I will never visit them, but to ensure their survival, I place my pen, my time, and sometimes my wallet at their service. The oxygen those trees exhale makes my life possible, and their destruction is my own.

The only reason I’d leave the convenience of an urban apartment for a house would be to plant fruit trees and let my lawn burst with food for people and pollinators rather than grass. But I know myself—I would rather suffer jury duty or fold laundry than dig in the dirt, where I’d encounter wriggling earthworms. And the very thought of bugs on my skin makes every hair stand up.

There is much in the city to feed my love of nature: The moss hanging from the southern live oaks. The barred owl behind our building periodically calling “Who cooks for you?” I long to answer him, but he stubbornly refuses to show himself for a real conversation.

The wonders of our national parks call to me, and I long to visit and marvel in the august presence of ancient trees, mirror-still mountain lakes, and multi-pigmented rock formations. But when the sun goes to bed, let me bask in the glory of indoor plumbing, snake- and insect-proof doors and windows, and the promise of morning elixir from the venerable coffeepot. (Though a  voice in the back of my mind scolds me, saying I should know how to “rough it.” For the future, when we’re all living in Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower.)

Am I an imposter, then, when writing about nature issues? I ask myself that each time I lift my pen to extol the delicate beauty of a green heron, the still vigilance of a lizard, or the mossy fairy-tale shape of a live oak. Yet I continue to look for that owl—through my apartment window—and to write about him and his bird friends.

For the people of Ukraine:

Declaration of Interdependence

On this day
of celebrating
independence,
I declare
interdependence
a new truth
to be held
self-evident,
humanity
created free,
interdependent
on each other;

I declare
what defeats
and hurts
any human,
anywhere,
also defeats
and hurts me;

I declare that
suppression
in any corner
of Earth
suffocates,
narrows
the air of the
whole planet,

and I declare
that one day
the uncontrolled
emissions
of anguish
from those yearning
to breathe free
may vanquish
all of us

unless we free
ourselves
to declare
on this Day
of Interdependence:

“No one is safe
until all of us are safe
and no one is free
until all of us are free!”

Joe Pacheco

The Author’s Bakers-Dozen Marketing Points
By Jan Nieman

  1.  Always carry your book with you. Even at the gym, someone will ask, “What do you do?” and as you flash your book, you answer with your one minute elevator speech.
  2. Don’t become so flustered when speaking to a large group that you forget to mention your book’s title and pass out business cards.
  3. If a vendor fee is over $50, it’s probably not worth it – even some under $50 aren’t, but you never know.
  4. Be aware, that at bazaars you’ll be tempted by other vendor’s merchandise. Do not — I repeat — do not stroll around the room. Ten-to-one you’ll spend more than you receive.
  5. Always notice the exit door location and beat your audience to it after your program.
  6. Do not be waylaid by audience members asking for advice on how to market their book. Give them your card, ask them to phone, and again, get to that door!
  7. Outdoor events are:
    • Hard on tootsies. Do not wear flip-flops.
    • Windy. Bungee-cord your poster to the nearest telephone pole.
    • Sunny. Don’t forget the SPF 30.
    • Rainy. Wet books do not sell — Cancel!
  8. Retirement homes can be challenging. Ignore the resident poking her couch mate in the ribs and shouting “Emma, wake up!” Pack throat lozenges to ratchet up your speaking voice when a resident sets off the panic alarm.
  9. Do not ship twelve books without insuring them!
  10. The “Today Show” will not contact you unless you’re famous, notorious, or have a fool-proof method for losing 50 pounds in 4 weeks.
  11. When program directors, event planners, or book-store manages fail to return messages, don’t be discouraged. After a dozen calls, you’ll hear from them simply to get rid of you.
  12. Purchase a new scarf or tie every month to fool people into believing you have an extensive wardrobe and are successful (also hides neck wrinkles).
  13. When your optimism is at a low point, out of the blue, a reader will remark, “You’re a good writer. I really enjoyed your book and it sounds just like you speak,”and you arc left wondering how you “do” speak. Nuts! Consider it a compliment.

***Every day is a new day – learn from your experiences***

Print PDF file of Author’s Bakers Dozen

The Viking Funeral

by Mary Charles

In an era long ago when the captain of a Viking ship died, his family and ship’s crew would place the captain in his longboat, set the ship afire and release it onto the outgoing tide to carry the captain to Valhalla.

My husband was born in Norway. He loved nothing better than to be on a boat. On summer visits with him to the village of his childhood on the east coast of Norway, he took me on magical rides in his father’s old wooden boat, out in the sunlight to the skerries protecting the harbor, into deep shady fjords, onto tiny hidden beaches. Then, from the terrace of his parents’ home above the town, we would sit long after bedtime looking out to a glimmering sea where the sun left its glow until midnight. Geirr was at peace there.

We spent most of our careers in New York, at a pace far removed from that of his sleepy Norwegian town. When the opportunity came to move from Manhattan to a little house on a little canal in Queens, we began to float again. Every late afternoon from June through October we packed a cooler and a camera and idled our way around Jamaica Bay, past the Rockaways and Marine Park. On weekends we might venture further, around Coney Island and into New York Harbor for a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.

In Norway, pleasure boats are not often given names. But in America every boat, every ship, every dinghy has a name. Our first Luhrs, a 28-foot single-engine cabin cruiser with a wooden superstructure, we named Murphy in honor of the law stating that anything that can go wrong will. She was a troublesome boat.

The Peaquod was our little Boston Whaler, deliberately misspelled to avoid confusion with the boat that pursued Moby Dick. Afternoons in that boat were the outings where we felt most attuned to our watery world. To reach across the gunwale and run a hand through the water was to remind us we were in the sea, not merely on it.

But our fanciest boat, a 32-foot Luhrs with twin engines and what I called a stripper pole below deck, was named Sweet Thursday in honor of Geirr’s favorite author, John Steinbeck. That boat was where we entertained on summer afternoons.

A gaggle of my girlfriends [we called ourselves the Beauty Queens because of our shared experience in the cosmetics business], visitors from Nashville or Dayton or Europe – all were eager for a ride on the Sweet Thursday.

When it came time for us to move, our neighbor across the canal inherited that sweet boat. John continued the Geirr’s tradition of the annual Chicken and Beer Cruise, packing a dozen local guys on board for an afternoon afloat. No women were ever invited on that cruise, which suited us wives fine. While the men motored about, we would gather on the dock for white wine and a testosterone-free chat, with the grill readied to welcome our sea warriors home.

Dementia makes strange changes in the personality, the preferences, the very nature of the person. Among other disappearances, Geirr lost all interest in the boating life. For the first time in my life with him, he showed fear of the sea. This was the man with whom I had sailed around the southern tip of Norway in a fresh gale while I cringed and he whistled. And now this same man needed to be coaxed into a bathtub.

In his last days, when we had said all there was to say, I read to Geirr. Cannery Row. His beloved Travis McGee series by John MacDonald. The poems of Wallace Stevens. And of course, tales of the sea. Sometimes I imagined I saw him smile. It gave me comfort to think that I might have helped ease him from this world which had become so alien to him.

And so, when he was gone except for ashes, I felt the need to give him back to the sea that had given him such life-long joy. The ridiculous idea of a Viking funeral began to take root. I talked to some friends. My brother found a Viking ship replica. Geirr’s sister promised to fly over with her husband from Norway. John offered the Sweet Thursday to lead the funeral cortege.

On a beautiful Saturday in mid-September, two months after Geirr left this earth, we sent his ashes out to sea. Friends and family from near and away boarded the Sweet Thursday to escort Geirr as he began his final voyage. In our imagination, that journey would be out of Jamaica Bay New York, into the Gulfstream, and home to Norway.

My brother Jim had tricked out the Viking ship replica so that it would both float and burn. As we set the ship on its way in flames, the Sweet Thursday was joined by a half dozen friends’ boats to create a protective circle around the ceremonial pyre. We listened to “Crossing the Bar,” a beautiful old hymn about life’s final voyage. Tears flowed freely. I opened Geirr’s bottle of 30-year-old Macallan, which he had saved for a special occasion, to toast a life we had all cherished.

Back at the dock of the yacht club, we told “Geirr stories” well into the evening. In that moment I came to understand the meaning of the term “celebration of life.” Many of the stories were sweet, some were raucous, a few had never been told before, and together they swelled into a stew of many rich flavors.

And now, three years later, Geirr’s memory remains alive. I often share “Geirr stories” with new Florida friends who never knew him in life but who now know him through the stories I tell. I encourage all whose loved ones have gone to tell the stories of those lost lives. There, in the telling, life does go on.

A Poem by Joe Pacheco

Poem Begun For Marjorie
On 2-11- 87

From neither the brightest
Nor the warmest
Nor the tallest
Or even the sharpest

Not certainly
From one coming on
Still strong still full
Of praise and promise

But rather on this
Superlative August 8
Eightieth Birthday
From the one who needs
And wants and loves you
Better than all:
Happy 80th Birthday!

Completed 8-8-21

~ Joe Pacheco

FOR MARJORIE AT SEVENTY-NINE

(Inspired by Janis Ian)

No truth to learn at seventy-nine
Except that living on is fine.
So many friends now turned to dust,
Their camaraderie once robust.
A few, surviving faint and frail,
Now faraway as memories fail.
No unlived dream for which to yearn —
At seventy-nine not much to learn,

Except sometimes the past unwinds
And leaves a word or thought behind,
A song or phrase recalls a scene —
The world was old at seventeen
But still too young for “might have been”
Before the births and deaths begin —
Now living on is fine
At seventy-nine.

You’ve got your true love at your side
To share the times we’ve laughed and cried,
Our magic moments still alive
For love has helped them to survive.
“Together” is now a precious word,
The sweetest song we’ve ever heard
And each new day a Valentine
To share together — at seventy-nine.

No need for old age solitaire
Sheltered in places with despair,
No time to waste remembering when
“Remember was” will come again:
The present’s a wide and shining place
For past and future to embrace
And living on is just divine
At seventy-nine.

(FROM SANIBEL JOE AT NINETY)

Winter Solstice 2003
(Year of my Quintuple Bypass)

I thought at first
The cataracts had come back —
the sun glinting cold and yellow
over the tennis courts
brought out the Bollé glasses.

Nor was noon better —
the sun still low and stuck in time
as I drove on the causeway
to and from
the mainland mall madness,
gray gulf and sky,
whatever shred was left of day
shrouded in jaundiced twilight.

For once I was relieved
to see night begin
with Venus burning bright
and low like a jetliner
and even lower on the horizon —
the thin crescent of moon
slivering into renewal.

From darkest day had come
most shining night
and on this longest night
of my longest year —
the promise
of ever-brightening days
waiting to rise
above my horizons.

Joe Pacheco

IN THIS HOUSE

Prone on the sagging divan
I see the breeze flirt with the curtains
Through the open window

Bolts of sun shoot into the room
Archways caress them
Into shadows of themselves

Landscapes warm wheat-hued walls
Taormina, Taranto, Rockport Harbor
Dream tips

Just when sleep soothes my aching back
Wind gusts the French doors wide
Waking my wandering mind

I could die in this house

Gary McLouth

 “Eclipse” is a villanelle which appears in my weekly poetry column, “Poetry Place” at SantivaChronicle.com

Eclipse

Beyond my window blooms the moon
Hangs ripe and full before sunrise
Moonbeams scatter round the room

Awakened from night’s cocoon
Circle of light before me lies
Beyond my window blooms the moon

Over the moon a shadow looms
Watching it grow I’m mesmerized
Moonbeams scatter round the room

Lunar light will darken soon
Earth masks moon as it arrives
Beyond my window blooms the moon

Penumbra passes light resumes
Emerging from its dark disguise
Moonbeams scatter round the room

Serenely shining ancient rune
With the power to hypnotize
Moonbeams scatter round the room
Beyond my window blooms the moon

Lorraine Walker Williams