Embrace the Journey, Anyway

NOTEI drafted this post on October 22nd, precisely 24 hours before learning of my beloved sister’s sudden death. Days later, the Houston Astros would lose the World Series. As I re‐read the post, a salty gulp of poignant synchronicity rose up in my throat. While a life is not a sport, my memory will never disconnect these two events. Still, I embrace the journey ahead. My sister would demand that, and more books, of course.  — Melanie 

Booked and Barefoot at Minute Maid Park

Six weeks ago, I endured a night of Houston Astros baseball. You may remember my preferred view:

That was September. This is October. We’re now living in a sea of World Series hype for our Houston Astros.

(Notice that super‐friendly reference there? Yes, she’s drinking the [orange] juice.) it’s officially Baseball Madness in the Bayou City and the hype carries a contagious virus.

Mention World Series and the verbal bets begin. Will we go full seven?

Eager to join the tribe, I’ve begun retelling my most recent Astros memory:  I saw these boys play when the park’s field stands were more empty than full! I watched 15 runs batted in! I saw Air Yordan-what’s-his-name now hit a triple!

Marshall McLuhan got it wrong. The MESSAGE drives the medium.

In these exciting times, why not buy a World Series shirt? Even if you’re a Never‐Sports person.

I like the possibilities behind this tee.

It confirms our play in the Big Boy Game but offers no promises beyond that. We may not end up The Champs after seven rounds but we’ll be on the field. We’ll try.

That double play reminded me of another picture from last month’s free‐ticket night.

“Embrace the Journey,” indeed!

I’m standing outside Minute Maid Park with my favorite bag, chosen for three reasons: the pair of books inside and its simple message. Only later did I realize the magic of “Embrace the Journey:”

  • Every day offers a journey, to or from somewhere.
  • Discover something.
  • Embrace what you find.

That magic first appeared as DH and I cruised the lobby of Minute Maid Park.

Can you find the “H”?

This swatch of faded Astro turf hangs in the lobby of the ball field. Look closely to find the raised team logo. It’s a five‐pointed star centered behind a capital letter “H.”

Even up close, the search demands a determined visual search. My eyes failed. DH whooped when he spied the logo. I, instead, reached out with silent hands to feel what I couldn’t see.

When my fingers grazed the grass, I smiled and remembered again: Discover something — embrace your journey. 

I walked into the stadium, looked around, built a pretzel diamond then picked up my book to read.

Now I’m walking into the next game, watching and embracing whatever’s next on this journey.

In baseball or books.

Reading & Remembering the Home Team

Sports and me don’t mix. Blame my DNA.

For evidence, I enter my most recent road trip.

Free tickets and curiousity lured DH and me to watch the Houston Astros play Tampa Bay.

We saw our last Astros game in 1993. As in back in the previous century. Our Astrodome was still the 8th Wonder of the World. Nolan Ryan came back to the old home field to pitch one last time. He blew out his elbow and we never attended another Astros game.

Playing ‘gotcha!” with the past — as in three times in one night.

Imagine our surprise last week when, upon arriving at the new‐to‐us ballfield — Minute Maid Park — we spied this. Our first Astros jersey of the night. Ryan? Good old #34 — emphasis on old.

What are the odds that my return to sports would involve the same team and the same player on the same night — 26 years later?

Meaning comes where you find it. Especially when you’re not looking.

Playing with food: a ballpark game for adults only.

By the time we f.i.n.a.l.l.y. maneuvered to our seats, total exhaustion overwhelmed me.

So many people. So much color. So much noise.

Struck out by all the incomings, I returned to my standard healing response: gentle play.

What else to do with a cold pretzel on a hot night?

Look around. Make something new.

Voila! Pretzel + Diamond = Ballpark Playtime. Can you spot the two diamonds?

Reading books: the best game in the universe (all of them).

Afterwards, I turned to my first love: reading.

Yes, I brought books to a professional baseball game. Two of them, because options and variety matter. Like playtime.

My mother taught me well: bring a book because it will always feed you. Life won’t.

Her life‐long mantra echoed in my ear the following morning when I spotted my cousin’s words.

Lila had spotted my reading picture on Facebook. In response, she offered the Compliment of the Year: 

Seventy five years later — Austin to Houston — like mother, like daughter — I’ll gladly be the chip off that old block.

Everyone else can take baseball; I’ll take my books.

Anywhere.

Many Roads To Creativity

It’s raining again in Houston. Again. Raining. My heart goes out to the ones who had their homes flooded earlier this week. I am currently high and dry.

Since I am stuck at home waiting for the monsoon season to end, it is a good time to try different art forms. I think about the new Aladdin movie that is coming out soon. I wonder what I would do if I found a lamp that I could use to conjure up a Genie that would grant me wishes.

I would wish that I could draw. I have always wanted to draw and have been at least a little bit envious of those that can. However, I cannot draw. Maybe a straight line if I used a ruler.

Yet it is my desire to draw, combined with my love of art, that keeps encouraging me to find new creative outlets. I have done needlepoint, abstract painting, collage, photography, ceramics and I have dabbled in fiber arts.

This week my creative urges have taken me down the road to Alcohol Inks. As you can see in the various samples in this blog; it does not require drawing talent. I bought an assortment of bottles of Alcohol Inks, then I sprayed some rubbing alcohol on paper. The next step involves dropping the various colors of Alcohol Inks onto the paper and then I use a straw to blow on it and spread the colors around.

What you see here are my very first attempts at using these inks. Please be kind and gentle on your judgement of my artistic attempts. I think I will combine these inks with some collage and see what happens.

Of course when I am not playing with lots of pretty colors, I use my creative talents to write. I write essays, short stories, some poetry and blog. Of course I am working on a book.….aren’t all writers? I am quite sure that given enough time, I will bring forth the Great American Novel. But even if I don’t, I will have fun trying.

What is the connecting thread to all this? Creativity. What I have observed is that once I walk down one creative road, then I am always inspired to walk down others. I surround myself with my favorite artists and writers and include my own art and writing. As you can probably imagine, the walls inside my home are quite eclectic. And I am always open to trying new art forms. Book shelves are full and stacks of books sit on the coffee table and bedside table.

If the weather will cooperate this weekend, I want to spend Saturday afternoon strolling around Sawyer Yards. There are so many artists who have studios over there. It feels creative just to walk around. Unfortunately, the weather forecast indicates that all of Houston may be under water by that time. And I don’t own a boat. Sigh.

As I write this, the rain has really started coming down outside along with a good bit of lighting and thunder. Time to sign off and go hide under the bed with the cats.

Until next week.….

Rocking B’s

At the entryway to Oyster Creek Park, I spotted them.

Grandmother and granddaughter sitting on a park bench, bonding over books.

The thumbnail photo of this bronze sculpture caught my attention when I scanned Sugar Land’s Public Art brochure. Of the ten such sculptures in the city, this is the only one I really cared to see.

Something about young and old, innocence and wisdom, reading and sharing. And the precious grandchildren in my own life.

When I arrived at the park entrance, I found no hints—maps, signage, arrows, etc.—of where this pair sat.

On instinct, my eyes swept to the ten o’clock position.

How did I know to start at ten? Why not eight, or three or…

Intuition? Silly girl, I thought. Be grateful and walk toward them.

Along the way, I spotted alligators and paint‐can art. A dog learning to frisbee. A baby taking its first steps.

Picture taking and future blog posts. Of course.

As I walked, the bright‐shining sun and a clear blue sky sparkled on my shoulders. Seventy degrees, the phone tells me. Mid‐December? Winter begins in four days?

When I finally stood before the Grandmother and Granddaughter sculpture, B’s assaulted my vision: binoculars. book. bear. backpack. birds. bun. bench. braids. boards. buckles. blouse. buttons.

Twelve in a single shot. Why all the B’s? And why did I notice? Is that what real writers do?

I took a second picture of the sculpture.

Clean shot, I thought.

Only at home do I spot the next B. As in sunBeam.

The ray of sunlight was not there when I snapped the picture. I promise. 

When I saw the light, the word followed: Beam.  

My, that sounds like a song. Or a Bible verse. Egad. I digress.

Back to a photograph. We’re up to a baker’s dozen of B’s.

One final B surfaces as I stare at the image. It’s less obvious, but more special.

Bonding.

What happens when grandmothers and granddaughters Be together.

(Offered with heartfelt apologies to my writing teachers).

And now, we’re up to 15 B’s in a single Blog post.

Oops, that’s 16.

What a day for frisky, frivolous fun.

You’re lucky.

No F quiz follows.

Recording a Reading Revolution

I love books, as evidenced by this corner of my house:

Again, I’m a planet outlier.

Publisher’s Weekly bemoans a 20 percent decline in fiction sales. Only one year out of the past five have sales climbed. Thank Harper Lee’s 2015 book, Go Set a Watchman. 

All the reasons for declining fiction sales equal sensible logic:

More competition for entertainment hours and products.

More closings of brick‐and‐mortar stores.

Fewer book reviews.

Shorter attention spans.

Even audiobooks are displacing the printed novel. Mike Shatzkin, a noted publishing industry guru, calls it words‐to‐be‐heard vs. words‐to‐be‐read.

What’s ignored in the worrying noise is the price we’re paying by not reading.

Be it television, video games, the World Wide Web, streaming books, and other entertainment options, we’re actively rewiring both our brains and bodies. Few of us pay attention to the consequences, either short or long‐term.

Photo courtesy Amazon.com.

Writer Maryanne Wolf takes a look in her fascinating (ahem, non-fiction book), Reader Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World.

Wolf cites varying studies that blame the widespread screen explosion for our collapsing attention spans, declining imagination and thinking skills, worsening physical health, and strained relationships.

One of the first studies came out in 1998. Linda Stone, of the Virtual Worlds Group at Microsoft, possessed frightening prescience when she coined the term “continuous partial attention.”

Stone referenced children specifically when she created the term. Twenty years later, she’d no doubt label us adults with the same syndrome.

Tag me guilty, too. But only when I’m not reading a book. In that printed landscape, my attention laser‐focuses to imagine a world only I can see. 

Delicious creativity and control! Fun and fulfilling, too!

Yet, these recent books and magazines frighten me about this road we’re on. There seems an almost willful ignorance for behavior and consequences. In confronting these effects, there’s information and messages to share, heed.

Even so, I cross my fingers, remembering what’s happened with music. Printed books could travel a similar road.

Remember LP’s and turntables? They’re back, and popular, for reasons I don’t comprehend. Records over CD or streaming tunes? Clunky equipment over flat, round disks or no plastic at all? Pray tell, why

Amid my semi‐Luddite questioning, possibility arises.

Once can become twice. 

Music now, books next?

Copyright, GrooveBags.com.

Meantime, I read, wait, and check my mailbox.

Shoes inbound promise a coming retro‐revolution. 

Our world needs more fiction, published. And read. 

A broad can hope.

Self‐Care Matters

My assignment at 7 p.m. last night was to sleep for a few hours then awake and post here.

It’s 4:30 a.m.

Ahem.…that’s a little later than planned. Yet, the last 9.5 hours marked my best sleep of the past two weeks. And I’m still groggy. As in my body’s not done with its 40 winks tonight/this morning. 

There’s a message here: my body needs a major rest. Two stimulating weeks involving a 1300‐mile road trip and an hyper‐invigorating writing retreat will cry out for good sleep at some point. That point came last night. 

But…it’s my turn to post on RoadBroads. I promised Ellen.

I arise out of commitment, devotion, and frustration. Continued sleep will elude until the third necessary is answered.

Thus, dear reader, I offer preliminary pictures from yesterday’s Denver excursion. They provide partial explanation for the good‐tired.

Tattered Cover in Denver: more stacks than any reader can count.
Take a guess: how many new books are stuffed in this one sack?
Done lingering, aunt and niece head to the ice cream stand, walking toward Denver’s handsome skyline.
Olinger mortuary become Linger restaurant when new owners blacked out the “O.”

Linger Restaurant was a must‐stop for a pair of ladies with a Memphis funeral business in the family heritage. We refilled our water from brown bottles once used for organ storage and ordered drinks from an old metal patient chart. Toe tags used to mark the drinks but they were gone yesterday. Too macabre a memory for some? I missed that part of the adventure.

It’s back to bed I go, the call of duty answered, potential guilt assuaged.

The CPAP lets a snore machine sleep well.

Tomorrow — oops, make that today’s — post will focus on my learnings from a writing retreat. First is how to manage this ongoing body‐mind hum.

What a time for my writing life!