The Blood, the Bones, and the Soul of Memory

Have you ever met an older person who births smiles right out of your heart while making your soul say, “When I grow up, I want to be just like her?” I’ve met several of these wondrous human creatures (Yep, I’m that lucky). The latest one to guild my list is Ms. Francie—artist, retired teacher, professional smiler.

I didn’t talk to Ms. Francie for long, but one can learn wonders from spending the best part of an hour dismembering and re-stitching stuffed animals with the right kind of soul. Besides, the smile on her face and the ease with which she shares her hugs told me a world of tales that said she was awesome.

My Piano Man, my in-laws, the Little Princess and I met Ms. Francie at the San Juan County Fair (where my Mother-in-Law’s quilts won several ribbons… more on this topic later). Ms. Francie sat surrounded by scissors, needles, yarn, children, adults, and a menagerie of scissored stuffed animals.

“Would you like to turn them into something new?” Ms. Francie said to the Little Princess, presenting the head of a dog and the body of a bear.

The Little Princess grinned one of her mildly insane this-will-sure-rock grins, accepted a needle and a length of purple yarn, and sat down to stitch.

I was studying the scene, when Ms. Francie pointed at a small boy and said to me, “That material is really tough and his hands are too small for the scissors. Do you want to help him with that lamb?”

“Yes, ma’am!” I said, decapitating the lamb and handing the head to the happy boy.

“You should Frankenstein something too.” Ms. Francie grinned. My mind might be making up the next bit for effect, but I’m almost sure she rubbed her hands together. Or maybe, I just really loved that she used Frankenstein’s name as a verb. I mean, what’s not to love about that?

I, of course, accepted the kind offer. I already had the body of a lamb, so I needed a head. My Piano Man helped me find the head of a red-eyed frog. I stitched the frog’s head to the lamb’s body, dog paws served as ears, a wee headless body holding a mirror made the perfect tail. And then Frogenstein… “It’s alive!”
Frogenstein

Like I said I the beginning of this post, I didn’t spend a lot of time with Ms. Francie… but I will never forget her… not after telling you the tale of our time together. Stories are the blood and the bones of memory, when we write them and read them we give them souls. Shared stories will live on…

Below is the visual tale:

Of Arts and SmilesMs. Francie and one of her paintings
“This was such fun,” she told me. “I painted with my fingers, with my elbows… such fun!”

Stitching Stuffed AnimalsMy Piano Man was the holder of heads

Stitching Stuffed Animals 2The Little Princess half-way through stitching the head of a dog to the body of a bear

Tinker TentThe Tinker Tent was one of my favorite spots in the fair

Tinkering ManA tinkering man

Grandma and GrandpaMy in-laws in the serious business of ghoul-sitting Frogenstein and Polar Hiney… Yes, that’s the name of the Little Princess’ ghoulish creation, since it has the head of a blindfolded Polar bear for a tail (My Piano Man might have helped with the naming… So complexly creative, my sweet love *cough, cough*).

Blue Steel PoseMy Piano Man (and his “Blue Steel” gone wild pose) modeling my purse (creative and sexy!)

Chewing HayI met two farmers while I was searching for frogs. They told me that their crops kept disappearing. I told them that they had to stop eating it. They made a face. Fine, so the bit about the vanishing crops is a lie. But the frog search, that is real… and I shall tell you all about it in my next trip to Friday Harbor post.

It’s the Might Have Beens that Get You…

“Oh, it’s the might have beens that get you
when you’re old,
when the weeks fly by so fast
and the story’s mostly told.”
~ Sherry Blue Sky

Two months or so ago, an artist friend of mine lost the final battle against a chronic illness that had been part of her life for some time. A week before she died, she emailed me to commission farewell poems for each of her children. I had been very busy with hospital visits and with trying not to puke my guts out… so I didn’t open the email until several days after her death.

I was heartbroken, very hurt because I couldn’t give her that last bit. I didn’t know what to do. After discussing my feelings with my Piano Man and a couple of friends, I decided to use the limited information I had to write the poems. I sent them to her children with a copy of her email… and with my apologies for not having been there for their mom when she needed me.

I had never met (or spoken to) any of her children, so I was a bit anxious about their response. My apprehension didn’t last long. They replied right away, and thanked me for the gesture. They explained that although their mom knew her condition was terminal, no one foresaw the end would come as quickly as it did. So she never had a chance to say goodbye.

I’m not a crier, my Wicked Luvs, but there were a few lines from my late friend’s email that ripped tears out of places I didn’t know could cry. She wrote, “I’m frightened, Maga. The doc says I’ve lots of time but I think he’s wrong. I’ve wasted much time trying to stay honest to my plans. I should’ve changed things years ago. Now I know there’s lots I won’t have time to do.”

Don’t panic, my Luvs. I’m not dying—at least not any faster than anyone else is. But my friend’s words made me think about my own approach to life, to being ill, and to planning. For instance, before I got sick, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my writing: I would publish a few stories and novellas on my own, then approach traditional publishers with my longer works.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know my plans have been seriously amended more than thrice. In the original version, the first AlmaMia Cienfuegos novel would be trying to find its way into the world in 2015. Then there would be a dark urban fantasy novel, and more short stories… And with the kind of teeth baring stubbornness that few people can survive and stay sane, I’ve been coming up with ways to stick to those plans.

Right before April, as I reread my friend’s email, I decided that I was done twisting my life in order to force it into a mold that is no longer mine. I wanted to visit the Dominican Republic, and research the landscape, before I finished the AlmaMia Cienfuegos novel. The book is fiction, but I wanted the setting to be as true as possible. My GI issues put an indefinite hold on those plans. Memory, the Muse and the seat of my pants shall have to do the work. It might be more fun. I must (and I will) do what makes me happiest now, and the rest shall come when it comes.

The following are some of the changes that will affect my blogging ways:
– I will blog thrice a week—Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays—unless a blog event entices me to cheat. Tuesdays will be for storytelling (fiction and creative nonfiction), for writing updates, and for bits of witchy living (posts like this one). Fridays will be for news, the occasional review, and for the re-posting of tales previously published on my former blog. Saturdays will be for poetry.

– I shall continue Expanding Bits of Fiction and Poetry into Haibun, but there won’t be regular posts asking you to help me pick the one you like best. My choices will be based on how a particular poem bit fits the prompt(s) offered by the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads, dVerse, Prompt Nights… or on pure whim. Yep, I’m super wicked and selfish to the bone. 😀

– Next year, Dark Fiction for the Cruellest Month will be a one-prompt event. The same applies to Witches in Fiction, starting this year—just one prompt, which will stay open for about 5 days.

– While I work on writing for commercial publication, I will satisfy my sharing fancies by posting Stories of Yamasá (super short creative nonfiction about growing up in the Dominican Republic, which I hope will help with my AlmaMia Cienfuegos research, since the novel is set in my homeland); and Tales of the Gashlycrumb Tinies (in which I craft totally unauthorized stories about some of Edward Gorey’s deliciously creepy children).

So… this is the many-times-revised plan, my Wicked Luvs. Let’s see (read?) how it goes.

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a not so random note: to he who told me “You must use your time for doing things more beneficial to others than to yourself like The Lord intended”, I wish to say that “You must go and smoke a bag of rotten toes.” See? Trying to make other people do what you believe is right for them is distasteful… and mighty stinky.

Oh yes, and I cut my hair very short. I’m ready for surgeries, for summer heat, and for ample grinning. The “might have beens” won’t get me (at least not all of them), if I can help it. 😉

Magaly Guerrero, May 2016

Off to Write a Whisper… While Communing with Frogs

Three years ago, I was told stories about a ninety-year-old man’s first memory of crying, about a wise crone and her sisters using hot water bottles to warm the winter, about a painter who claimed his roots through ghostly images on canvas, about a mother metamorphosing into dragon and knight in the eyes of her youngest son…

Naturally, the tales stirred my Muse. Her whispers filled the hungriest parts of my mind… reminded me that we feed on words and delight in the preservation of memory. I plotted the story of their tales that same night, while everyone slept and frogs sang of summer’s end.

I’ve written different versions of the story, and they all feel… wrong. Last night, as I ran fingertips over the soil of my potted plants and listened to the mechanic roaring of Broadway, I finally figured out what kept diminishing the tales: I’ve been trying to bring a story to life, while writing it almost 3,000 miles away from its soul. The scrawling of those memories yearns for frog song, for bat wings speckling the night sky, for the prickling of the blackberry bush.

So, the Witch/Piano Man household flies off to Friday Harbor, where I aim to write a whisper… while communing with frogs, bats, deer, and eating more blackberries than it’s probably healthy.

I usually plan to blog little while I’m away from home, but I suspect that the telling of this tale is going to fill me so much that I might need to share some of the process with you. I’m looking forward to it—the telling and the sharing… Also, it has been quite a while since I’ve written about the writing process, from beginning to end. I kind of miss those posts.

Well, I better stop here. I need to have one last conversation with our house sitter, and I must revise my green babies’ watering chart—I’m quite enchanted by cemeteries, but a potted graveyard in my living room has never held much appeal, if you know what I mean.

What about you, my Wicked Luvs? Have you ever wrestled with creative work that won’t come to life until you allow for specific conditions? Do tell…

Edited (8/20/2015): there was a typo in the title (I wrote commuting instead of communing). So yes, there were lots of jokes about cars, trains and planes full of frogs. I enjoyed every one of them. 😀

Green Frog on Rose Hip