Sage Offerings, Post-Parking Rage

Reader’s Note: No pictures accompany this post. You’ll soon discern why. 

She flew into my orbit from nowhere, like a bumblebee soaring on wings of rage.

Jabbing her rigid index finger toward me, she stabbed the air. Over and over.

I cocked my head, utterly perplexed.

Excuse me? What’s your problem, lady? I do something to you? I just parked my car. 

We stood—two women, strangers, facing off in a strip center parking lot. I had 20 minutes to kill and she appeared ready to oblige.

I stood outside my car, the driver’s door offering partial shield.

She stood perhaps ten feet away but taller, elevated on the sidewalk. I shrunk back.

Her dark eyes dissolved into black bullets. They fired at me rat-a-tat-tat—a hundred thousand bits of metaphorical ammo—aimed on the perfect horizontal. Target: my car, body, and spirit.

Pure instinct made my body dodge right, shoulder and arm tucking into my car’s door frame. My right foot moved into the car as if bracing for future impact. I said nothing.

Calm. What the..? No. Breathe. Let her talk as she can. Calm. Breathe. She’ll explain soon.

The longer I remained silent, the angrier her face became. Eyes tightened to pinpricks. Face squashed, raisin-like. Lips darkened to brown-bloody, a passionate underline.

In reaction, my eyes and lips squinted as I looked deeper into her. But, in my chest, wild fear ran amok. My heart thundered. Life-threatening beat. My brain scrambled to stay ahead of her emotion. Brute willpower forced my lips to soften.

Show no judgment. Only listen. No mirroring anger. Cool. Take quiet charge. Calm. 

You took my space,” she yelled, her voice knifing my inner dialogue to silence.

Excuse me?” I answered in my easiest, be-the-adult-here voice.

You pulled in front of me,” she said in a near scream, finger jabbing harder into the space between us. Did she fear my attention had disappeared?

She leaned toward me, jerking full forward at the waist and leaning over the curb. “I was waiting over there,” she pointed to her left, “ready to pull in and park but you swung in and took my place.”

A cacophony of words flooded my brain. Willpower stood up, tall.

Two roads here, kiddo. Challenge. Or back off. Latter. Go.

I walked around my open car door, exposing my unprotected body to her. She glared back, eye bullets still flying. I broke the stare, looked where she had pointed earlier. Her red car sat diagonally parked two spaces away, resting illegally in a handicapped parking space. The car’s hazard lights blinked with manic urgency.

Clarity landed.

I’m sorry, ma’am,” I said, my voice gaining strength. “I didn’t see you. I saw the open space, pulled in, and never saw your red car. I apologize.”

I repeated myself.

As I talked, the woman’s face relaxed, eyes now simmering brown, lips relaxing into the hint of a smile. The air between us thawed. I repeated my apology. Calming mantra, round three.

She dropped her eyes to the sidewalk then raised them, gazing almost soft. Her smile widened, filling her face. One question popped up.

Has this woman awaited an apology her entire life? 

I moved my car and entered the coffee shop. The woman sat in her car—in my old parking space—and texted on her phone.

I wonder what story she told and what she learned.

My learnings?

I can defuse stranger rage.

Plus: choosing peacemaker and sucker-upper aces throwing temper tantrums and threatening body blows.

It’s been a good week here.

I hope the same for her.

RoadBroad Review: Journals

Ex-journalists don’t die. They shop for journals.

So am I now a journal-ist?

Groan now, but it’s true. I crave journals. The storyteller in me loves a well-crafted, story-keeper. Yes, that’s another term for where RoadBroads capture the memorable parts of their journeys.

On our recent Boulder/Portland adventure, I picked up three journals, two worthy of future storykeeping. The other requires a publisher overhaul.

At the incomparable Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon, this journal leaped out.

First eyeball matched Powell’s nirvana (a three-story bookstore that covers one entire city block).

I opened the journal. And groaned.

Out loud. In the store. Drawing stares.

Do we always have to color inside the lines?

Every right-side page demands a laundry list of dry factoids. Money spent on gas, routes taken, sights/memorable events, highlights (differs from “memorable events”?), sleepover/dining experiences (sleeping & eating combined into one line?).

On. It. Goes.

No buzz? No joy? No agony? No heart?

Answering who-what-where-when involves only one skill. Taking dictation.

Narrative juice flows only in answering two questions: how? why?

For example: how did you feel when the tire blew? Why did you stop at that run-down cafe? 

Answers to these types of questions — and not the vanilla fill-in-the-blank queries above — provide both a context and a story for what we experience. Especially road trips. It’s how we sort them out. Hopefully, we gain understanding. And an honest hearing.

It’s flavor and feelings we need. Every journey offers both. Even simple trips like a quick jaunt to the grocery store offer stories. If we look. 

Diaries record minutiae like “favorite sight.” Travel books log odometer readings and miles per gallon. Journals add the sensory spice of emotions and feelings. It’s juice, if you will. Ready for the drinking if we’re willing to dive deep and write/talk about those along with the neutral flavors of wind direction and highway speed.

I digress. Bigly. Whoa! Sorry…

This journal’s lines are too narrow. Nobody can write hyper-tiny like this. The book is too thick at 200-plus pages. Not switching backpacks.

I do like the blanks offered on every left-facing page. However, the empty lines are crammed together. For more tightly-written text?

To every negative, there’s a positive. This journal offers a great backside:

Asphalt makes a perfect ending for a journal. It’s the surface that grounds every trip. Flying is your main route? Eventually, you’ll return to asphalt.

The better Powell’s journal was this one.

Each time I pick it up, I find something new. Today, “wanderlust” screams. Time for another road trip? 

I open this journal and smile. Writer-friendly lines talk, beckoning with “one quick page, come on, scribble details, that Boulder moment when…”

Why this rising wanderlust? Home two weeks, hungering for the road? Again? Cough, cough. Last trip not yet paid off. Reality Ah, reality.

My fingers flip back to the cover and my eyes scan it a second time.

The journey matters 

I thank the Muse for that future blog post idea. In Colorado, I met my favorite new journal at a favorite place, the Boulder Bookstore, holder of special memories and favorite friends.

This journal captures truth, with my clarification: it’s always about the story.

Why readers read, writers write. It’s why: the journey matters. 

I drafted this blog post then rested. Returning later, the three journals beckoned. I opened one to its very last page.

Second leap. Two thoughts.

Synchronicity rules.

And — why did this company bury the lead?

Take a closer look. That journal on the second row, third from the left.

Christmas. The Holiday Journal.

Maybe I could write it.

Declaring Self

Greatest gift from my recent 11-day road trip?

This objet d’art, customized at a Boulder end-of-summer festival:

Repurposed license plate from Texas and Colorado redefines a life. Thanks to Neil and Blaise of www.JunkLoveArt!

With the plate, I now own the title.

Full-time. With pride.

Thank you, Colorado.

Thank you, Oregon.

Recent excursions north and west marked one of the best trips ever for DH and me. That’s a meaningful brag, given how many places we’ve explored in 34 years of co-adventuring.

More details in the weeks to come.

When I’m rested.

Yes, from vacation.

Losing Faith in Shining Moments

Inspiration arrives in odd places.

Its opposite does, too.

For years, the writings of Stephen King have enchanted, even as they terrified. The Stand. Carrie. The Shining.

DH and I planned our summer playtime around two creative locales: Boulder, CO and Portland, OR. From Boulder, he insisted on a quick jaunt to his old childhood haunt — Estes Park, CO. I replied, Stanley Hotel.

Copyright G. Wigler 2017

My mind raced to memorable scenes from the film made from King’s novel, The Shining.

”Redrum” scrawled in blood across a bathroom mirror.

Jack Nicholson taunting, “Here’s Johnny!” through a cracked-open door.

A hundred sheets of paper filled with a single sentence, repeated over and over — “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Memory reminded me the movie was filmed at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. What could be more fun than seeing the mirror, the door, the paper.

Then we did. Saw the paper.

What you can’t see in the typewriter photo is what’s beneath the space bar. A red cautionary note warns the tempted: CAUTION! Old! Do Not Touch! 

This third sign confirmed our suspicions. Nothing was as it seemed with either the hotel or the movie.

The first was the entry fee.

To enter the hotel parking lot — guest, visitor, whomever — you discover a $10 entry fee that “you only pay one time but you receive this $5 gold coin which you can use in our gift shop or restaurant.”

You mean the Stanley keeps $5 to stave off the unwanted, the cheap, and the wise.

We discussed leaving. As we did, a line of cars grew to the street. The parking gate behind the guard was down. He glared at us as DH and I strategized. My writerly curiousity won, we paid the ten and drove in, both of us irritated to a slow burn.

Seventy minutes later into our tour (another $20 per person, the reduced senior rate) and I seethed.

The movie was filmed in Oregon, not Colorado.

Because a different hotel was used, there’s no basement bar. No maze either. Except…

…for this: what the Stanley built itself. Three years ago. How many years is that post-movie?

Room 217 is where Stephen King slept the night he conceived The Shining. Hotel officials asked the movie’s director to change the room number to 237. Here’s why: 

Room 217 never has a posted number. Novel readers are smart people. They figure things out. Eventually.

Kimg hated the movie so much, he helped to fund a later mini-series of his novel. Filmed at the Stanley.

It is a beautiful, old hotel. With a rich heritage. And a clever marketing staff.

But now, when I think The Shining, bile fills my throat. I remember what the marriage of marketing and money-making can create.

I hope Stephen King gets a cut of the Stanley dough.

I got mine. It’s a $5 gold coin. Forgot to use it when I bought that #217 room marker.

Road Trip Twist

NOTE: Not all road trips are alike. The following story offers a compelling twist on the Journey tale, one that only Kay Cox — our dear writing retreat friend — could tell, and well.

Guest blogger Kay L. Cox writes poetry and stories from her San Antonio home. She’s an experienced blogger (check out her writings on www.picklesandroses.blogspot.com). Earlier, Kay worked as an art and family therapist, teaching graduate-level art therapy classes in the US and abroad.

Thank you, Kay, for joining our RoadBroads team today! — Melanie & Ellen


Road Trip With a Twist

Kay L. Cox

My lunch plate that Friday held sliced roast beef, slathered with gravy. But the instant mashed potatoes looked like a sauce, thanks to too much liquid on top. I spy broccoli. Fresh broccoli. I can’t wait. I grab my fork. Then the broccoli’s so tough, my fork can’t cut it and even my knife has a hard time. It’s so tough, I can hardly chew it.

I open my mouth to complain. Then I remember.

The previous Sunday. Dinner at my son’s house.

Emotion overwhelms me.

My family is active with local churches in helping documented migrant families as they head through San Antonio enroute to their next destination by bus. We were asked to house two families. One family stayed one night. The other was a young father, Juan, and his 2 ½ year old son, Ricardo.

When I arrived at my son’s house, the pair sat on the sofa watching television. Ricardo snuggled, sleeping, on his father’s chest. I greeted Juan in Spanish. He nodded, giving me a big smile. I noticed an ankle monitor on Juan. What have we come to in this country?

I went to the kitchen to help prepare the dinner. Chicken casserole and steamed broccoli. Soon, Ricardo awoke and Juan sat him in his lap to eat. Ricardo’s big brown eyes and shy smile won our hearts. He was so well behaved, almost too quiet. I surmised that in his long treacherous journey from Guatemala he had been taught to be very quiet. Ricardo looked at the plate in front of him. His eyes grew bigger still as he looked at the plate in front of him.

He picked up a piece of broccoli, looking at it as if he had never seen such a vegetable. He spoke softly to his dad. With my limited Spanish, I think he called the broccoli a tree before plopping it in his mouth. Then he picked up another, looking at each “tree” carefully before putting each piece in his mouth. Over and over, Ricardo did this, eating bite after bite. I think his body was craving fresh, green food. I wondered when he had last had fresh vegetables.

Never have I seen a child that young eat broccoli like that. Any complaints I might ever have about food from now on fall into a different perspective. I have so much to be grateful for.

My daughter in law bought clothes and diapers for Ricardo, along with snacks and books in Spanish, and his long journey with his father riding multiple buses to Washington. She found a children’s backpack and filled it. Ricardo proudly put it on and clung to her leg at the bus station when she turned them over to the woman who guided them to their correct bus.

What a beautiful experience to share what we take for granted. We were able to make a difference in making someone’s life easier.

I will never eat broccoli again – be it steamed-to-mush, raw or tough — without thinking of Ricardo and Juan. And I’ll feel grateful.

All we have to do is be kind to each other. It’s that simple to create change.

Playful Priorities

The weekend called for floating in space.

I answered. And spaced-out on pictures. Except this:

The brochure extols the soul-bending, mind-expanding, life-changing experience that is floating in 1200 pounds of epsom salts.

The virgins to Space City Float here in Houston would call the adventure “a fancy salt bath.”

And they’re wrong.

Lying free atop nearly a ton of salt, I floated on my own. For the first time in my life. Big deal at the tender age of 61. Water terrifies me. Has since birth, for reasons I’ve never understood or explored.

My first thought when the door closed and the lights went out? Mother. This was how I felt floating free, inside my mother. For nine months. No salt float then. A womb bath. Oh my god. 

First time I’ve ever felt free. Completely. Untethered.

Zoom in on the brochure above and you’ll obtain all the contact info for the float place. I paid them, not vice versa.

Floating began our first-ever, five-stop Mate Date. Later, DH and I were so delighted (or gumbied by?) our salt baths, we cancelled one event then ate a relaxing linner (lunch/dinner combo for the diet-conscious). Our fourth and final couple’s bonding came at an impromptu Aretha Franklin tribute at Miller Outdoor Theater. Baby boomers still dance so well when it’s the teenage tunes they remember.

Fans waving their lit iPhones made for an eerie scene. In my mind, I was back in a different kind of salt bath float.

Twenty four hours later, reality returned.

My writing life — as a spacey RoadBroad and dedicated novelist-wannabe — summoned me back to priorities and purpose.

I answered. New clarity and focus.

This is why I am here: to write, to read. Thank you, salt float!

By the way, thank you for asking — yes, that’s a Beto O’Rourke button on my chest. And, yes, I’m going rogue and political here.

Elections matter. Especially this year.

U.S. midterms are 11/6/2018. Before then pleasepleaseplease check to make sure you are registered to vote in your state. There’s hinky stuff happening in Registration Land, folks. Go here to ensure you’re ready to cast your ballot in November:

Verify Your Registration Status + Find Your Polling Place

This is one way your voice is heard, even if it disagrees with mine. Truly. Democracy survives best when we all vote. Or at least that’s a running start.

My public service announcement about your civic duty is now complete.

By the way, while you’re reading my chest, take a closer look. Can you decipher the t‑shirt message? If you can, give a shout-out to Sugar, aka Cheryl Strayed.

Some people say the darnedest, true-est things.

Two for Two

Today I update my recent walking report with a riding one.

Do you remember the tree tale?

Oaks split by lightning — or old age — chopped then ground down to create something new. What, precisely is subject to a writer’s walking eyes.

Intrigued by my starfish observations, DH suggested a look-see. Up close. From a wheeled perspective. I pulled up to the spot.

Where I’d spied sea creatures, my husband shouted a one-word rebuttal: “Longhorn!”

I rebutted right back: “Bevo?”

My instinctive answer reflects a distant past at UT-Austin. Four years of Saturdays at Longhorn football games ended with a national championship. An exercise in giddy jubilation. Even the big-ass longhorn steer we called Bevo mooed for Earl Campbell and his big-as-log thighs as they hightailed into the touchdown zone.

Nowadays, you won’t ever see me at a football game. Multi-level brain sensitivities—a blog post for another day?—preclude me from returning to that past. But ancient wiring lasts a lifetime, resurfacing at the oddest moments.

I digress. (This happens. Call it post-menopausal privilege.)

Staring at the flattened remnants of the tree, my eyes studied the woody bits. No cow from this street view. I turned into the parking lot and there he rested, awaiting eyes that could see.

You win, DH. Although I will offer this in my defense: there’s a slight rise in the earth which hides Bevo’s devil horns. You know, like maybe it’s really an Aggie Bevo you’re seeing.

After our couple’s drama, I remained intrigued so drove to the other leveled trees. Could there be longhorns lurking there, too?

Here’s the tree mess I’ve yet to decipher. After working all afternoon to find a creative shape, I gave up on this old oak blob. So I invite your eyes to look.

What see you?

This simple couple-experience taught me much.

To everything, there’s a learning. This one offered a quick class in New Ways of Seeing.

It’s worth looking again.

Inviting other looks.

Looking longer.

Capturing perceptions and sharing perspectives — both of eyes and I’s — enrich life and expand minds.

Isn’t this what life and the matrix — as illuminated two weeks ago — is all about?

Could this be the writer’s true mission?

Bean vs. Bullet

When I arrived at Houston’s answer to Chicago’s Bean, all I saw was a Bullet.

Houston’s Bean — or Bullet?

Ellen’s post and pictures last week lured me back to the road, this time to the Cullen Sculpture Garden.

Call it a silver siren song. Gleaming, mirrored surfaces screamed out. Release pent-up creative energy. Retrieve roadtrip memories.

Three years ago, DH and I road-tripped to Chicago. A swing by its Bean was vital. We were too old for Lollapalooza but never too cranky for playtime. 

Chicago’s Bean lures joy-filled play.
Blondie holds up the Bean.

Remembering that long-ago pose, Houston beckoned the same treatment. Same dress. Different hair.

Happy pose notwithstanding, I hated Houston’s Bullet. Immediately.

Can you see the rope-like steel cable that wraps the granite base? It prevents human touch. Saving Windex money?

Look a little closer. See reflections of cracked eggshell below? Translation: metaphor for an ever-expanding urban area with its multiple, diverse personalities. Truth?

In the shadows loom omnipresent building cranes. Prepping walls and floors of concrete. Another anniversary this month. Hurricane Harvey; Houston floods. We pour more concrete this storm season?

Step a pace or two to the left. Spy the first thing to love of this Bullet art. A concave side revealing…a ghost? A baby bear?

What do you see?

Lay down this baby and she’s a bed for cradling. Lush bedding mandatory. Not now, though. It’s August in Houston.

Can I sleep here in December? A Christmas present to myself? No. Guards say “no touch! Ever!”

Fine. Playtime calls.

First. Let’s play compare & contrast. Look at the pair of images below. Ask, as I did: when did local art go to the birds?

Sculpture “Bird” frames Bullet
Bean previews H‑town?

Ah, Monday philosophizing about art — be it beans, bullets, bears, or birds — beats writing on a novel.

To life! To distraction!

What’s Your Woman?

Medial Woman screamed “Me!” in the morning.

Afternoon, I yelled back, “Me, Amazon! Next, Mother!”

I saved my loudest roar for “Hetaira” – there’s something about a woman focusing her life on a man that simply does not ring my chimes. Dare I ‘fess up that I heard my dark side shouting?

A weekend drive to Houston’s Jung Center — past a 4‑car freeway pileup (a high five for what lay ahead?) — brought an in-depth study of these four aspects of the feminine psyche.

Which Archetype(s) are you? (Image copyright Suzan Cotellesse).

The workshop promised this RoadBroad an opportunity to expand her knowledge of female archetypes. My novel demands character exploration. I never anticipated a bonus: riches of personal learning and expansion.

Indulge me as I take an esoteric dive.

Archetypes are, in brief, an imprint all humans carry. In psychological theory, they’re original forms, or models, of people or ideas that others recognize universally.

In “Four Aspects of Woman,” workshop leader Suzan Cotellesse synthesized the groundbreaking work of psychoanalyst Toni Wolff who posited that, across a woman’s life, she dances with four archetypes in both her personal (individual) and non-personal (collective) relationships. (Authors Mary Dian Molton and Lucy Anne Sikes later expanded on Wolff’s work in their book, Four Eternal Women).

Those four natures include Mother, the nurturer; Hetaira, the relater; Amazon, the striver; and Medial Woman, the wise woman. Suzan’s clear and wise teaching explained each of the four functions in detail.

Which fits you now? (Image copyright Suzan Cotellesse).

Immediately, I slotted my novel’s six primary female characters.

Then. Off came the blinders.

My turn. Personal truth.

Easy at first: Medial Woman. Intuitive. Spirit Seeker. Mysterious. Crone (rising because, at age 61, she’s not very old. Cough. Cough.).

Amended at day’s end: I’m actually a growing Amazon followed by a creating Mother supported by evolving Medial Woman with full-on-resistance mode at mention of Hetaira. There’s something about this broad who self-selects as a man-slave. Over-reaction, of course. I’ll explore. Later. 

At workshop’s end, we collaged our learnings. I used a single piece of paper, collaging its two sides.

Amazon roars; Medial Woman meditates (Collage images copyrighted by their respective magazines).

Here’s Afternoon Me. Young again, she strides into the world as an independent Amazonian woman. Her white and black attire symbolize the clarity of her life mission and purpose.

Interesting that Amazon’s stride comes atop Medial Woman’s natural wisdom. The latter’s represented by images of clear water and shining sun, the foundations for a strong feminine force re-entering the world.

To her left—as a guiding mantra—balances the red and black passion of woman and man evenly weighted with each other, moving upward toward a better future. I hope.

On the reverse appeared the supporting forms, Archetypes #2 and #4, if you will:

Mother creates, Hetaira relates (Collage images copyrighted by their respective magazines).

Mother anchors this side with her Gaia representation, stand-ins for the gestating/birthing role of the creative feminine. She stands on what she brings to her role: ‘The Woman who Knows what Women Want.” Apt for an author of women’s fiction?

To her right stands Hetaira, daring any challenge. On anything. Closed-off arms offer aloof confidence. Attractive. Fearsome. Yes, work to do, both of us.

Splitting the page, the four faces of the female archetypes reveal different looks. Each glance, shaded by artfully applied make-up, reveals as it also hides. Can you see why each face was placed as it was?

Two days after the workshop, I look at these pages and ask—my god, where does this stuff come from?

Medial Woman wants to know.

For Amazon Mother.

∞∞∞∞∞

Suzan will offer this informative class again this fall at Houston’s Spectrum Center (www.SpectrumCenter_Houston.com). You can explore Suzan’s other work and teachings at her website (www.suzancotellesse.com).

Calling Starfish Quinoa

Remember last week’s photo?

Here’s an update:

Welcome to life in the suburbs where a single damaged tree merits the grass treatment. As in mow it down. Its two pesky neighbors must go, too.

While you’re at it, get creative. You know, like a writer. Leave behind a mutant starfish in all three tree places.

Zoom in on the first picture above to see the name on the brick block in the back center of this frame. It reads MATRIX. This word nerd thought immediately of Keanu Reeves and his Neo film trilogy. Taking it a step further (because it’s one of those weird info-junkie practices of mine), I researched the word on-line. Dictionary.com cites “matrix” as a biology term: “ground substance.” Chill bumps broke out — the exact new form of this old tree. So ground into the earth, I thought of cooked red quinoa. Can you see it?

Odd metaphors of wood and grains. Actually, there’s nothing odd or weird about my writer eyes. I call them Imagination. In the matrix, who knows what we’re really looking at anyway?

On a lighter note, a photo from a RoadBroad weekend:


No imagination necessary — that truck was pointing at me, but under tow away from me. Odd sensation to drive behind this. And a first in 45 years on the road.