Blogging · Goals · Gratitude · My Books · My Thoughts · poetry

A Challenge for Thirty Days! Whew!

Man in rapids in a kayak - challenge

The Ultimate Blog Challenge, Day 30, is today and I have mixed feelings about its ending. I finished the challenge of writing a blog post every day in November, missing only one day—the first day because I didn’t know about it. A friend in my writing practice group told me about it long, long ago on November 2. So, I started that day and continued successfully until I had network issues one day and had to publish two blog posts the next day. The challenge also asked us to post links on our Facebook and Twitter pages, adding the hashtag #blogboost on Twitter. The next step: post on The Ultimate Blog Challenge Facebook page. Finally, read, comment and post on Twitter 1 – 2 other blogs in the Challenge.

What did I learn in this challenge?

I truly enjoyed writing a blog post every day. Because I had returned to Natalie Goldberg’s writing practice every day in March 2021, it came easier. I outlined topic themes for the four weeks at the beginning:

  1. Writing help—SWAG, doing successful interviews, how I select my blog topics and the value of writing groups
  2. Back Stories for each of my six books and three cookbooks—there’s always a story behind the story
  3. My poetry—I found a sketchbook/journal with several poems I had forgotten about and shared them
  4. Gratitude list & things I was grateful for—I shared about my recovery, key people from my life and my dear pets
  5. I chose two suggested prompts from the Ultimate Blog Challenge & then wrote about my newest adventure: audiobooks

Being organized at the beginning with this outline made the writing every day easy. I didn’t have to search for topics. Being new to this, I didn’t realize topics were provided every day. Also, I created a blog post page with the social media icons in it for each day to make life easier. Normally in my weekly blog posts, I love to add a couple pictures, but I found a wonderful plugin that reduces the size of the picture tremendously and that helps because I have a horribly slow network, and it made my life much easier.

My big take-away: I relearned how much I love to write and share my voice with the world.

What did I enjoy?

I thoroughly enjoyed my topics, especially my gratitude week. Coincidentally or not, the day I planned to write about my dear friend Kathi Raver Miller was the anniversary of her death. I savored each word.

Also, I took pleasure in reading the wonderful posts by the other participants. I learned so much and saw how others handled the challenge. Every blog post I read entertained, educated or consoled me! You can’t beat that!

What was a hassle?

I do my blog in wordpress.com, and it has so many helpful hints which have made me a better writer. But every day I went through the list of suggestions to tailor that post to have both green light (good) in SEO (Search engine optimization) and Readability. In the past, frequently, I have had problems with the Readability score because I write complex sentences. It suggests writing shorter sentences, so I worked hard this month and ended up with a lot of green lights for Readability—yahooo!

Also, my brother visited us for Thanksgiving, so I worked super hard Wednesday night and did two—for Wednesday and Thanksgiving. So, I all I had to do on the holiday after gorging on our delicious meal and watching nonstop football was clean it up and publish it and then do the required assignments!

Would I do it again?

Again, I have mixed feelings about it. It took a lot of work to do it, but the regularity of writing significant pieces every day rewarded me deeply. Yes, I think I would.

Finally,

do + dooubt - challenge

I never once doubted I would finish the challenge. I’m just that type of person. I love a wonderful challenge and couple that with one of my passions and it’s a win-win situation for sure!

What did you think? Did you like it? What was your favorite blog post of mine?


Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

STILL AVAILABLE! Cyber Week Specials at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, on select books! If you liked my blog posts, you’ll love my books! 40% off of select Individual books, 40% off of select bundles and 50% off of digital copies! These books make the perfect gift for your friends and family.

Age · My Thoughts · poetry

A More Recent Belly Poem

Exercise - belly

My belly seems to be my theme for the last couple of days, but today’s poem reaches beyond my belly to the entire process of aging. I’m 68 today and enjoy my thoughts on life and my belly! Apparently, my belly is a favorite topic of mine!

The View Down and The View Up

July 2018

The view down startles me today!

In exercise class,

            sitting on my mat cross-legged, I looked down at my belly.

Recently, I lost fifteen pounds;

            the bulge of my tummy has shrunk!

I love the loss!

            My tummy doesn’t stick out like before.

            The shrinkage is good!

Having just turned sixty-five.

            I see my body changing,

delightful yet sad!

Arthritic hands - belly

Arthritis cripples several fingers

            and my thumbs.

Once I had straight lovely fingers,

            hands I loved to view.

Now I see my mom’s and grandma’s hands

crooked and achy,

            where mine used to be.

I still wear beautiful turquoise rings;

            pain screams through the beauty.

My right knee hints of hurting today.

            I have a brace I keep handy

                        just in case.

            Arthritis too!

Oops! Belly

As I age,

the worst part so far—

                        I pee my pants

                                    when I cough

                                                when I sneeze

                                                            when I laugh too hard.

Thankfully, pads ended years ago

            when my period stopped,

                        and I celebrated.

Now I have returned to pads

            for protection

for safety

for security.

I fear an inexplicable puddle.

                        Will Depends be in my future?

Dance

            exercise

                        Zumba

                                    movement

                                                massage

                                                            keep my body nimble, limber and moving.

Writing

            reading

                        meaty, meaningful conversations

                                                laughter

                                                            friends

                                                                        responsibilities

keep my mind nimble, flexible and alive.

Facing this next phase of life,

            I wonder?

I want to meet and greet

            the elderly woman in me.

I want to accept her limits,

                        to challenge her mindset,

                                    to embrace her idiosyncrasies.

I don’t see me as a feeble ole lady

            wearing nylons rolled up to my knees

                        wobbling, unsure.

I will continue to wear hot pink and leggings

            wobbling with style and grace.

I want to redefine being

            a Senior Citizen.

I have “Hot Tamale” red spiked hair

            instead of gray.

                        I saw the gray and white coming

                                    and opted to hold on to my youth.

And besides,

            I’m a redhead at heart,

                        because of my red-headed father.

I’m young at heart.

I’m trim today,

            because I have to be.

                        Echoes of family genetics

                                    keep me steadfast.

                        My maternal grandmother and her sisters

                                    overweight German stock.

I have a life partner

            that shares my attitudes.

                        We travel and enjoy life.

                                    We laugh. We talk. We dance.

                                                We start many days with a rousing Cribbage game.

He’s older than me

                        and

                                    I watch his wise ways

of handling these changes.

I have dear friends and family who encourage me

            to be the authentic woman God created me to be.

The future is bright.

            The day is calm.

                        Serenity overflows.

I like all of me

            the helpless baby I was,

                        the energetic five-year-old,

                                    the obnoxious thirteen-year-old,

                                                the sixty-five-year-old crone.

I honor each one and their influence on me today.

Yes, years bring wisdom

            patience

                        acceptance

                                    a strong knowing

I’m ready

            for God’s next phase

                        a new uncharted adventure

Looking up - belly

The view up at this glorious world graces my day.

            A verdant green forest of piñon pine

                        A luscious purple mesa lit up at sunset

                                    Cholla cactus in full fuchsia bloom

                                                My fifteen-year-old Siamese cat who struggles

with feline diabetes yet meows his love to me

Summer newness exploding in our garden

                                                                                                with anticipation

                                                                                                            and joy

The view down

            into my body and soul—

                        I like what I see!

The view up

            out of my world

                        reaches to the clouds and back

to my God.

I’m ready!


Finally,

Three years ago, I wrote this poem. Obviously, the coronavirus pandemic has changed our dance and travel joys, but physically, not much has changed. I celebrate the idea of being a Baby Boomer with a purpose, and I found that here in the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Thank you! And I continue to wonder about this time of my life!

How has your body changed with aging? What are you doing to combat the changes? What are you doing to accept the changes? Share your thoughts below.

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

family · My Thoughts · poetry

How I View Myself: Another Poem

Woman looking at herself in a mirror -  view myself

How I view myself has always been shaky. Our society deems a beautiful woman to be slender. I really mean skinny! And I have never been skinny. In fact, as a middle school student, one friend called me “Fat Girl” as a nickname! So, you can imagine I was a little chunky then.

Another factor that has affected my view of myself my whole life—all the woman on my mom’s side of the family had weight issues. And as a young woman, I vowed I would never look that way.

Sadly, during one part of my life, I experience anorexic—I had to cut up food into bite-size pieces to get them into my mouth. What a horrible reaction to what had happened in my life! I’m glad to say that ended with professional help.

So, in July 2011, Lin and I spent a month with another couple in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, a beautiful resort town with hot springs. Taking a chance, I bought a two-piece bathing suit for the first time in years. At the same time, I read the book, Women, Food and God, by Geneen Roth.

So, this poem was the result. Enjoy!

Belly with a flower in belt - view oneself

Love My Belly—Are You Crazy?

The book titled, Women, Food, and God, told me

            “Love your belly!”

So, I did!

            I thought!

            Off-and-on for a few months

                        randomly,

But what does that really mean?

            I pondered that thought often

In passing a mirror,

            it still bothered me!

I’m 58.  I’m short!  I’m 5′ 3″.

When I gain 2 pounds,

            it shows up first on my belly!

All of my life,

            I struggle; I diet.

            I lose; I gain.

And the solution is

            to love my belly?

Walking through Walmart

            before the 4th of July,

I saw a two-piece bathing suit.

            Red, white and blue

            stripes and stars!

            Outlandish for a 58-year-old!

I remembered

            a cute young gal,

                        slim and trim

                        at Cuchara, Colorado

                                    last 4th of July

            donned in cut-offs and that bathing suit top!

Could I do it?

            Could I wear it?

            Dare I at 58?

I looked back in time

            trying to remember —

                        squeezing the facts out of the past.

When was my last, I wore a

            Two-piece suit?

Ten years ago, and

            husband #2?

Twenty years ago, and

            husband #1?

Guatemala with Lynn,

            my long-time traveling buddy?

Probably twenty years ago!

So,

            I bought it!

It sat in the Walmart bag

            for a couple of weeks.

No time to wear it!

            cautious, timid, but willing!

Then, on another Walmart excursion, I found

            matching red, white and blue trunks for Lin.

I bought them and

            knew

            my Independence Day was coming!

I gave him his gift

            on my arrival

            to Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

            IMMEDIATELY,

                        before I unpacked,

                        before I chickened out.

I showed him mine —

            a matching set

            outlandish!

His response was positive!

            but I still wasn’t sure!

In a couple of days,

            we were off to the spa.

He put his on

            which surprised me.

I couldn’t back out now!

I put mine on —

            Astonished!

I looked fine!

            I looked OK!

            I felt great!

That two-piece suit

            somehow encouraged me

                        to do

            what I had struggled for months

                        to do.

We’re on vacation;

            I’ve gained a few pounds

I know that—

            I will lose them when I get home!

That’s what makes this

Two-piece bathing suit experience

            that much sweeter!

I’m not at my ideal weight.

I love my belly

            exactly as it is today!

Looking at myself naked,

            in the mirror in the spa dressing room,

I thought,

            “I’m not skinny!

            I’m not fat!

            I love my belly!”

Here I am at 58.

            I have realized a deep core lie!

                        I have uncovered a massive

                                    self-delusion!

            All these twenty years,

                        I have looked in the mirror

                                    and

                                                saw

                        too fat, too big,

                                    too old!

And I believed it!

            I believed the lie

                        I had told myself!

That makes me wonder —

            what other lies

                        limitations

                                    have I told myself and believed?

I’m not sure,

            but I’m going hunting

                        to the depth of my soul,

                                    to the mesa rim

                                                of my heart,

                        to the mountain top

                                                of my spirit.

Remembering my red, white and blue two-piece bathing suit,

            I will unearth the truth

                        about me!

It truly is Independence Day!

            I love my belly!


Finally,

Maybe age helped in how I viewed myself! I had realized no one watched me like I thought in my younger days. How I view myself had changed. I no longer worried about what you thought of me. I enjoyed my truly unique personality! What a celebration this day was! Yes, I loved my belly!

Have you had self-image issues—how you view yourself? If so, how did you handle them? If not, do you know someone who does?

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

family · Grief · My Thoughts · poetry

Surprised by My Words: More Poems

Surprirsed

Surprised by wandering through my old sketch book/journal, I found a couple more poems to share. I captured my life in poetry in all its nuances—the sentimental and the grieving heart.

Surprised by a sentimental heart

Vinyl record

Now, I’m That Generation

April 17, 2002

I’m that generation now,

The Oldies Station

I hear “Crystal Blue Persuasion”

And am transported back

            30 years or more!

Could it be—30 years!

An innocent teenager’s heart

Touched by this song,

Then and now

 I wandered down life’s path,

            Lost for so many years,

            Then recently re-found

 And the song has the same power.

            My heart softens

                        I cave in and wish

                                    For all that wasn’t!

I used to watch for all that could be!

 A song evokes that for me,

            Transportation back to the moment.


Surprised by my grieving heart

Ever since Dad died, I thought I hadn’t written a poem about him and his death, but I found this one, a treasure for sure! The memory I describe surprised me—yet I can feel the security I felt in his arms every night as he put me to bed.

Broken heart

I Knew Back Then

August 24, 2002

Every night as a child,

I clasped your neck,

Not wanting you to leave,

Desperate, frantic.

 The lump that’s in my throat tonight

            Has sat their deep in my throat

For nearly 50 years—

            Blocking my air, my thought, my life!

 I didn’t want you to go!

 I knew back then

            You’d leave.

 Your slipping through my bedroom door

Would eventually be slipping out of my life.

I didn’t want you to go.

 I knew back then

            I’d be left.

 The door that slam shut

            The hollow slam of the door

with me inside and you gone.

I knew back then

I’d lose you.

That I’d grow up—

You’d grow old.

Then you’d be gone.

 I didn’t want you to go.

But wanting didn’t stop it!

I lost you six years ago—

Death and cigarettes took you away,

Too early,

                                    Too quickly!

I wanted to share today

with you,

The laughter with mom

                        My place I’ve created

DAR 2003 (Dance-A-Rama, 2003, square dance festival I chaired)

                        This story that is me

And you.

 I didn’t want you to die.

            I wanted to clasp your neck

                        And beg you to sleep

with me,

To protect me and

                                    Hold me tight.

But you died,

And I have no one

to protect me

today—

                                    but me!


Finally

These two poems surprised me today. Just by chance, I grabbed my old sketchbook/journal and thumbed through. Do you have any surprises lurking in forgotten notebooks? Do you dare be surprised? Let me know what you find, if you dare!

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

Blogging · My Thoughts · poetry · Ranching

How I Record Life? Poetry

Man record life in a journal

How do you record life? Today I wandered through a journal dated August 1, 1999 to August 29, 2004 and found some poetry gems. It’s a large sketch book I dragged around with me those five years, writing poetry, taking notes and wondering about my life. I haven’t revisited it in years, but as I prepared for this blog post, something deep inside nudged me, “Look, browse! Be surprised!”

So, I did, and I am!

As I look at this chronicling of my life, I see a twenty-year time lapse. Yet, I recorded what was going on it the time, what I thought important! I have a stack of journals I’ve filled out over the years. I thought I had typed up all the poetry that had meaning, but my spirit knew treasures awaited me in this journal. That makes me wonder about those others on the shelf.

A Sampling of My Early Poetry

These three poems address attitudes of life and a specific life experience—branding.

Experience Life Totally

July 24, 2000

Anticipate the joy
	Toes on the edge
		Lingering ever so slightly 
Life in its fullest
	Step up to bat
	Step into the swimming pool
		No dive in head long!
	Step out of the crowd
	Step into the crowd

I must participate
	I can’t watch
		Wasn’t made to watch,
			To be a spectator

I want my hands dirty
	My neck sweaty
		My feet wet

I want to experience life totally!
		


The Sound of Her Voice

August 24, 2002

The sound of her voice
	Saying my name,
Reverberates back to
	The very first time.

The time she held me in her arms
	For that first time
	And said my name.

No fruit tastes sweeter,
	No bell rings clearer.
Nothing soothes my soul
	Like hearing my mother
		Saying, “Larada.”


That Smell I Will Never Forget

August 29, 2004

Burnt hair
	Burnt skin
A tradition
	A part of our work.

Branding day on a ranch
	Is a day of celebration of ownership.

These are my cattle
	My property
	My destiny
	My life!

The smell stays with me
	Many years later
		The stench
			The smoke
				The bawl from the calf
					The wrestle to get free!

It was painful
	But necessary!

One day, I slept by the campfire
	Three or four years old
I couldn’t miss today,
	But I was sick!
		Diarrhea
Mom put me in a diaper
	And let me go
		To our special day.

I slept and smelled 
	The campfire
		The branding.

My approach to life stays the same today. I look at life and capture it in poetry to record the feelings, the nuances. These three topics still resonate in my heart.

How do you record life? Do you write poetry? If so, what do you do with it? Leave a comment below.

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

My Books · My Thoughts · poetry · Writing

Future Possibilities & Poetry

what's possible? possibilities

Possibilities? As I face the future as a writer, I wonder about posts I read online, about authors needing inspiration. I don’t have that problem. I have five or six books lined up in the future. Three or four of them are poetry books! These pieces whisper to me often in the dark of night, begging me to breathe life into them.

I also have a couple of short stories I’ve played with, and I have a delightful collection of Christmas memories.

As a self-published author, I do all the work, so I have kept busy promoting my books, especially my last two. I’ve concentrated on my book business the last couple months, wanting to expand possibilities. I recently realized I need to focus on my e-book sales online and boost that in all the different formats.

So, along that line, I just finished training to create audiobooks, so that’s my next venture. The training is Audiobooks Made Easy by Derek I bought the training last December then got busy finishing up my new book. I started the training immediately last year. I bought all the supplies suggested: specialized mike for audiobooks, sheet music stand, recording microphone stand, ear phones and pop filter. Sadly, they have gathered dust in my walk-in closet (where I plan to record) until now, but I plan to start recording this week.

My plan is to start with my shortest book, Let Me Tell You a Story, to learn the process. Then I plan to record my current book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?. Then I plan to continue with This Tumbleweed Landed and When Will Papa Get Home? Right now, I doubt if I will record my two longer books: A Time to Grow Up and Just Another Square Dance Caller.

Future possibilites

Future Possibilities—My Line-up of Books:

  • Three or four poetry books
    • Watch a Poet Grow: Where It All Began #1—my early poetry
    • Watch a Poet Grow: Look at Life Look #2—my later poetry
    • Watch A Poet Grow: Haikuin’ Life #3—haikus about my daily life
    • Watch a Poet Grow: The Death of a Marriage #4—poetry record of my third divorce
  • I Said, “Yes!”—how to write a biography or memoir
  • Eye Witness to Life—a fiction I wrote in 2016 during NaNoWriMo
  • This Tumbleweed Landed #2—continuation of my first poetry book

How about some Cinquains?

“The cinquain, also known as a quintain or quintet, is a poem or stanza composed of five lines.”

https://poets.org/glossary/cinquain

In 2002, I took a poetry class from the University of New Mexico’s Continuing Education, and I wrote the following cinquains. They are cinquains loosely-defined but have no rhyming pattern.

Sunshine

light playing on

my skin, a reminder

that life will go on no matter!

I shine!

Cooking

fresh food ready

green cut aroma fills

the room and the space in my heart.

Refresh!

Land where?                                           

A tumbleweed

bounces against barbed

wire fence, gets caught for a moment!

Now gone!

My words 

my life caught in

a box, limited yet

real! I want to communicate.

Let’s talk!

Music

touches the deep.

I move to the beat. My

soul reacts to the sound and moves!

How come?

Playful

childlike laughter,

like bells ringing in the

chapel — angels swinging their wings

out loud.

Life force

Sensual light

burns deeply in my heart,

ignites with any willing soul

Alive!

Of what 

are my dreams made?

Fluff, a sprig of cedar,

Flesh and bone and sawdust sprinkled!

Gone soon!


As you can see, I’m not done! As I referenced yesterday, I’m a Baby Boomer with a purpose! I love having future possibilities to look forward to—that’s the only way I can live!

Finally

This week, look for poetry—a variety of it, ranging from my early poetry to some of my recent haikus. Recently, after my walks, I have recorded a couple of haikus that came to me as I enjoyed being out in nature. I believe in possibilities, and I see them everyday all around me.

What are your future projects? Do you plan ahead? Share your thoughts below!

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme - possibilities

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

My Thoughts · poetry

Coyote Encounter in My Poetry

Coyote

Coyote in Native American folklore is a trickster, and I had my experience with this illusive scoundrel and recorded in a poem. My ex-husband and I lived near a Native American burial ground where we walked.

Coyote is a major mythological figure for most Native American tribes, especially those west of the Mississippi. Like real coyotes, mythological coyotes are usually notable for their crafty intelligence, stealth, and voracious appetite. However, American Indian coyote characters vary widely from tribe to tribe. In some Native American coyote myths, Coyote is a revered culture hero who creates, teaches, and helps humans; in others, he is a sort of antihero who demonstrates the dangers of negative behaviors like greed, recklessness, and arrogance; in still others, he is a comic trickster character, whose lack of wisdom gets him into trouble while his cleverness gets him back out. In some Native coyote stories, he is even some sort of combination of all three at once.

http://www.native-languages.org/legends-coyote.htm

This poem came after my personal sighting of a coyote one morning.

Spirit Coyote

Larada Horner

September 20, 2000

One velvety quiet dawn

I see you and my heart knows.

We know each other deeply,        

beyond time and space.

                        Where did we first meet?

On the prairies in southeastern Colorado?

Your eyes haunt me

            following my every step.

Your home, a sacred Indian burial ground,

separated from the world by a chain link fence.

Ancient ones honored!

I walk by daily on the outside—

you and them today on the inside.

Are you coyote?  Are you spirit?  I can’t be sure!

            This is Albuquerque,

                        The city

                                    People everywhere.

I question as you mesmerize me.

            You turn away from me, and        

                        I recognize your lean frame.

You are coyote!

Death has captured them

            and you, too.

Are you captured?

Are you free?

You follow my action,

            you sneak towards me.

I gulp worried you will charge,

            but your movement stops towards me.

Now you progress with me, alongside me.

I feel comfortable in your presence–

            no fear,

            a companion that knows my heart.

You rise up on a small mound

            then you’re gone—gone forever!

A chain link fence separates us.

            You locked in with the dead

                        me alive outside,

                        walking free,

            yet skirting you and death everyday.

At times, I hear the chains in the fence rattle in the breeze,

            yet I know it’s not the breeze–

                        the sound is too severe.

            I know it’s spirits, like you caught in that place,

                        that place between the unknown,

                                    a place I know so well!

We are one; I see it!

Death, spirit coyote and me

            roaming through this life!

Those ancient ones inside me clamor to be

            free, to be put to rest!

Your spirit sought me out

            with a message.

Some Natives see you as the trickster,

            the predator by ranchers.

Others see you as the tourist symbol of the Southwest

            and place a red bandana around your neck.

What a shame!

Your spirit is larger, filling the arroyo

            and canyon of my heart.

You roam free—

            So, take me along!

I yearn to roam free with you,

            to howl at the moon,

                           at my loneliness,

                           at my aloneness,

                           at the other spirits walking my same path.

This surreal experience happened twenty-one years ago, and magic realism took over my poem—wondering about mysterious disappearance of that coyote. So what do you think? Where did it go? (Scroll below & make a comment about this mystery!

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My Thoughts · poetry · Travel

Haunted by a Favorite Poem of Mine

Larada at the top of Uxmal, 1991 - Haunted by Coba
Larada at the top of Uxmal, 1991

Thirty-five years ago, I wrote a poem after my memorable adventure in Cobá, Mexico, in the summer of 1985. Laying solemnly unattended in a folder on my computer, it has haunted me over the years. Today, I recalled my surreal experience when I wrote the poem, remembering the physical parts of the Cobá experience, and then the magic I added.

 In 1986, also, I was finishing up my coursework at Colorado State University. We studied magical realism in my Spanish classes, looking at the works of Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez. This genre fascinated me—reality with a dash of magic.

 So, what is magical realism: 

 Magical realism is a genre of literature that depicts the real world as having an undercurrent of magic or fantasy. Magical realism is a part of the realism genre of fiction.

Within a work of magical realism, the world is still grounded in the real world, but fantastical elements are considered normal in this world. Like fairy tales, magical realism novels and short stories blur the line between fantasy and reality.

https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-magical-realism#what-is-magical-realism

For several years, the Mayan culture and the Yucatán peninsula captured my attention, so I visited many Mayan Indian ruins there: Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Tulum, and Cobá. During tours at each ruin, I took copious notes. I bought several books and read about the Mayans, their culture and beliefs and absorbed details.

During our 1985 trip to Cobá, much of it lay overgrown with heavy jungle vegetation. Lynn Hafer, my travel companion and I stayed at a Club Med hotel nearby, but it wasn’t a “Swinging Singles’” Club Med infamous at the time but a research facility with a full library and a quiet, somber setting. Because of its remote location, the Mexican government had not commercialized Cobá yet, so what a raw jungle experience we had!

In 1991 I continued my Mayan treks. To celebrate my completion of my master’s degree, Lynn and I went to Guatemala to one of the largest Mayan Indian ruins, Tikal, a dream come true for this Mayan ruin lover. However, my experience, noted in this poem at Cobá, regularly surfaced and haunted me, so I thought I’d share it with you. In looking at it today, I felt the call to revise!        

                

Cobá—I Was there!!

Written – March, 1986

Revised – July 25, 2021

The year was 1985.

Walking down an overgrown jungle path with my friend,
	toucan birds squeak above my head
                nestled in the canopy.
A turn in the road, thick over-growth blocks the sun 
        for a minute.
		Shadows, sounds, smells--
			transported me back to 900 A.D.
      
A shiver pierces my soul.
I stare at crumbled ruins
        while an iguana lazily poses on a low step,
	       large but approachable.
Colorful in dress, Mayans step out 
        of the past and the bushes,
	       brush my arm.

I strain to see their faces 
        and 
               to hear their voices.
Is it real?

The bees buzz in the tops of the
        Trees among the orchids that
	       Decorate the canopy
		        With their color.
The bees’ hum above
	Joins the voices below.

Where am I?  
When?  
       With whom?
               A step back in time, yet caught between
                        Two worlds—then and now!

Had I been here before?
       At this spot,
       Centuries before,
              Standing at the foot of this Temple, 
                        surrounded by my fellow Mayans, 	    	    	        
              Worshipping the god "Chac" and 	   	    	    	    	
              Listening to the familiar
	    	    	Squeak of birds
                               and the laughter of howling monkeys.
   
The smell of Copal, sweet incense, fills the air
      The mingled 
             Odor of honey and grain,
                       My sacrifice to my god.
A bright fire illumines the scene
      With reflections and smoke.

The drums beat—beat—beat a familiar steady cadence.
      Draw me to them.
The Mayan priests chant—chant—chant soft sounds that join the 	    	    		
      Bass beat of the drums.   
The Mayan language a mystery to me,
      Yet I know it’s deep meaning.
I sway to the beat—the chant.
      It vibrates in my soul calling me forth
              Through the ages,
                      Past time’s illusive barrier!

Dark bronze skins glisten in the firelight.
      Brown eyes search our faces for safety.
             Flat heads surprise me with their symmetry.
I marvel at the feathery headdresses with multiple colorful gowns.	  
      I join the celebration,
             The ceremony!  

Small sturdy people crowd around me, 
      Greet me in a soft rhythmic tongue.
            Gently, friendly—a spark shines in
                     Their eyes with recognition!

THEY KNOW ME!  I'm among my own.  I'm home!!!

But it can’t be!
      I grew up in Colorado
            Not Mexico
	    Not centuries ago
	    Not Mayan

"Did you hear that?  What was that?" my friend grabs
      My arm.


TRANSPORTED
     BACK
            TO REALITY, or is it?  
I'm back—1985.
	    
The summer's heat presses in,
     The sun's scorching heat
           Eerie sounds and hums flow 
                   Through the air.
Eerie, yet familiar.

I strain to hear it better
     To hear the beat of the past
          To see those familiar brown eyes.
	    	    	    	    
I want to return!
     But can I?


Déjà vu? A poem capturing my experience or a fictional treatment? I can’t explain what happened that day so many years ago, but I know it was surreal. My poetry helped me express what I felt, not exactly what I saw. When I wrote the poem, the total experience happened. For years, this poem haunted me with its expression of possibility. I believe there’s unexplainable mystery in this world. Maybe that’s why I am attracted to the genre of magical realism and the chance that I witnessed a Mayan ceremony so many centuries ago.

A mystery happened this afternoon. I planned to use pictures from that 1985 trip to Cobá, but I couldn’t find my photo album. I found pictures from our second trip to Cobá 1986. Historically, I take lots of pictures on any trip—what happened to that album? Another puzzle added here—I wonder?

Have you ever had an unexplainable experience like mine? What happened? How did you honor it and record it? (Scroll below to make a comment)


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family · My Thoughts · poetry

Let’s Celebrate My Birthday Today!

My baby picture - my birthday
My baby picture taken August 1953

Today is my birthday—I turned 68. Hard to believe! Will you help me celebrate?

Here’s a poem I wrote about the day I was born:

 
 “She Was Born Dancing!”
 On June 26, 1953, my folks left
 their thirteen-month-old son with Millie,
 the family babysitter,
 to go to a square dance in Trinidad,
 fifty miles away.
  
 Mom danced one tip that night—
 She was nine months pregnant
 with me.
 They left the dance early
 feeling something was about to happen.
  
 Early the next morning
 Mom had labor pains
 that made her stagger across the floor.
 It was time!
  
 The fifty-mile trip back to Trinidad
 and the hospital
 was made in record time.
  
 At 10:30 a.m. I was born.
  
 Dad went downtown
 and ran into a fellow dancer
 from the previous night.
  
 Dad announced his good news—
 a new baby girl!
  
 Remembering Mom at the dance
 the night before,
 the only comment the stunned friend
 had to make was,
 “She was born dancing!” 

            Whenever my mom was alive, she made my birthday a special occasion. When I was a child, it was a party with all my friends and family and a birthday cake she decorated. Just inviting my cousins and family made a sizeable get-together.

4th birthday - my birthday
I’m the smirky one to the left with long curls!

As an adult, she continued to celebrate me on my day, making every year memorable. In 1983, when I turned thirty years old, Aunt Willie decorated a cake with one foot on a banana peel. My nephew carried in a watermelon for a gift (my favorite summer food). Then they gave me a gift of survival tools for being over the hill: my grandmother’s dentures, underwear and other key helping aides.

In 2012, Lin and I were at the National Square Dance Convention for my birthday, so Mom left me a voicemail wishing me a happy birthday. I kept that voicemail and recorded it on my iPad. After she died in 2013, I’ve started each of my birthdays off with playing it just to hear her voice and her greeting.

            In 2017, my brother and his two daughters were in Branson, Colorado, for my birthday. They have their grandmother’s birthday spirit, so they provided the props, and we took these photos to celebrate.

Today I celebrate being 68 years old. My husband, Lin, made it a special day. He wrapped his gift a couple days ago and set it on the coffee table in the living room, enticing me to wonder about it.

Roses for my birthday
Bouquet Lin bought me for my birthday

            This morning a beautiful bouquet of roses and lilies greeted me when I came downstairs. Then he sang “Happy birthday” to me and encouraged me to open my gift immediately. He bought me a CD player to listen to during my Quiet Time. Mine died a couple months ago, and I was going to replace it, but. . .

            For breakfast, he fixed blueberry pancakes, and we played a couple games of Cribbage and I won—a gift he hadn’t planned.

My birthday cake today
Me with my birthday cake today

            Then after lunch, he put a “Birthday Girl” headdress on me and came in with lit candles on a carrot cake. He explained the lettering on the cake. He had bought a cake decorating tube and wrote my name in the middle but ran out of room, so the last A was underneath it. Then he successfully wrote “Happy” at the bottom, but he told me the tube malfunctioned so he couldn’t do “Birthday.” What a sweetheart!

Other family members helped me celebrate. This morning I received a text from my sister wishing me a happy birthday. This afternoon, I received a phone call from my niece and two of her children, my nephew and his two daughters, and my brother wishing me a happy birthday.

            Yes, today we celebrated in true Horner fashion. Lin, who celebrates so much like Mom, channeled her celebratory nature the whole day.

            Don’t stop celebrating birthdays, no matter how old you are—that special day when you were born! Do something outrageously fun and make it a day to remember! Lin and Mom always have!

            What do you do to celebrate birthdays in your family or with your friends? (Scroll down below to make a comment.)

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Flippo's Book Cover & pelicans - my birthday

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My Thoughts · poetry

Haiku—A Trip Down Memory Lane

Walking down memory lane to haiku
Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels

Haiku, an ancient Japanese form of writing poetry in three lines, has become one of my rediscovered loves. Since I took part in Natalie Goldberg’s “The Way of Writing” Workshop in March and April, and she instructed us in haiku writing, I have become enchanted anew. When I taught writing to middle school students, I included haiku as one of their poetry assignments, but I forgot this. As I remember now, I loved teaching haiku. I enforced the rule of syllable count for each line, which helped my students understand syllables. When writing one, they would tap out the syllables on their desks—and finally they understood syllables.

As I remembered my beloved poetry unit, what my students wrote blew me away! They loved the strict format of haiku, forcing them to focus. Also, it didn’t have to rhyme, and that freed them considerately.

This afternoon, I needed to see my students’ haikus again, so I just ran out to my storage shed, open up a box I have kept treasured “Teaching material,” in and rummage through certain assignments I’ve kept for decades. As I moved through the stack of papers, I held my breath. First, I found one folder named “Haikus.” Delicious short poems about middle school life in English and Spanish from my students—I taught Spanish so my students wrote haikus in both languages. I would love to share them with you, but I better not because of privacy issues, but once again I read haikus six-graders wrote in heartfelt three line poems about their lives. Still precious as ever.

Then I found my beloved poetry unit and read through the various poems I shared so any years ago, wanting to ignite the fire of poetry in them, and often I did! Because I guided them carefully with examples and then subjects to write about, many shared their deep hearts’ concerns and loves. I felt privileged to witness their poetry.

When I taught my poetry unit, I read them a large variety of poetry to whet their appetite. The haiku example I read them was one of Sonia Sanchez. I probably picked a Hispanic poet to connect my students to her because the majority were Hispanic.

Haiku by Sonia Sanchez

 

Today I participated in a three-hour writing workshop with Natalie, entitled “Write Your Pandemic Story—Three Lines at a Time,”—that’s what stirred up my reminiscing about my students and haiku writing. We delved in deeper with her, giving more instructions on writing haiku. She read premiere haikus from the ancient Japanese greats, then also haiku from more modern Japanese poets. After listening to these great poets, we wrote our own, divided up into breakout rooms of five and read some we just wrote. What a rewarding experience. We repeated going to the breakout room a second time after another teaching from Natalie and read again after writing more.

Traditionally haiku is written in three lines: five syllables for the first line, seven syllables for the second and five for the third. Natalie was first introduced to haiku by Allen Ginsberg in 1976 at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. He discouraged his students in adhering to the syllable count, because we have words in English that have less importance, like articles of speech (the, an, that).

“The only real measure of a haiku, Allen told us that one hot July afternoon, ‘is upon hearing one, your mind experiences a small sensation of space’ — he paused; I leaned in, breathless — ‘which is nothing less than God.'”

Natalie Goldberg, Three Simple Lines: A Writer’s Pilgrimage into the Heart and Homeland of Haiku (2021): 4.

In Allen’s introduction, he identified four famous haiku men poets: Basho, Buson, Issa and Shiki. In her book, Natalie added a woman, Chiyo-ni.

For more information, here’s a website that talks about the four men poets: Basho, Buson, Issa and Shiki: https://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-haiku-poems.html

Here’s one about Chiyo-ni: http://www.earlywomenmasters.net/chiyo/

So, what’s the attraction? For me it’s the brevity, the crispness, the focus. It’s like taking a picture of something valuable in words then ending with an emotion. Also, I realized as I wondered back to my teaching days how much I loved haiku then and that love spurred me on to take this workshop today.

Since my workshop in March and April with Natalie, I’ve tried my hand at writing haiku. Let me know what you think.

March 22

 Life so wonderful
 So deeply charismatic
 A jingle daily! 

 One foot here on earth
 Gather deceived loved one near 
 One foot there with you!

March 23

 I hate politics
 Republicans, Democrats
 Families divided!  

 Eight years ago, Mom
 Left here, entered a new sphere
 Relief in her eyes. 

March 24

 Mom’s unique fragrance
 Covered my heart yesterday
 Thanks for the visit.

March 25

 Spring snowstorm blankets
 The piñon trees in white shroud
 Green, white and blue skies.
  
 Can square dance survive?
 We love to dance and connect
 Celebrate the beat! 

March 27

 Words hurt; words can heal
 Like a bomb or like a salve.
 Today I chose health. 

Simple, direct! Haiku poetry began in the thirteenth century and has gained momentum recently. I wrote many of these poems during my daily walks—the words, the themes and imagines came. I beat out the rhythm of the syllables with my fingers like my students did so many years ago, ran home and jotted them down before I forgot them.

How about you? Three simple lines to describe something specific in your world! If you craft one, share it with me. I’d love to know I’m still a teacher of haiku! To make a comment and/or share your haiku, scroll down below the following information.


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~Stop by my website for all the information you need about me & my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

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~VISIT MARY ZALMANEK, A FRIEND’S BLOG: Cooking in a One-Butt Kitchen | Eating Well in Small Spaces: https://cookinginaonebuttkitchen.com/