We the People, on September 11

We the People, Sept 11In 1787, the Constitution was written. We became “We the People.”

And We the People have been fighting wars all ever since. School kids in America learn about possibly 10% of these wars, but U.S. history is comprised of dozens and dozens of wars, campaigns, and rebellions. When one ends, another begins.

We the People fight for land, liberty, equality, and fight against injustice of any kind.

We the People win, We the People lose, We the People withdraw. We the People typically live in relative peace, thanks to our own who fight these wars far from U.S. soil.

We the People attack. And We the People have been attacked.

We the People have always seen ourselves as different, perhaps touched, in a way, able to think for ourselves and willing to act on our own or another’s behalf. Right or wrong, it’s become the American Way. It makes us unpopular. But We the People don’t give up.

We’re a country, after all, that began with a rebellion.

In 1776, the 13 American colonies broke away from the British Empire, the colonists declared their independence, and sought the chance to rule themselves, the ability to make their own decisions, and the opportunity to build and thrive without the heavy burden of taxation without representation.

They wanted a say in their own lives, and they rebelled to get it. And whether you can trace your ancestry back to those founding fathers or you just arrived in America yesterday, you need to know about this spirit of rebellion and the fire that courses through our veins to lift up this land of the free and home of the brave.

Despite the atrocity and the infamy of today, September 11 also stands for hope, solidarity, and rebirth, because that’s what America is and always has been. Today we mourn our fallen, and we remember the outright courage of our own rebellious heroes who rushed into burning buildings and who downed their hijacked plane, these heroes who, to quote Lincoln, gave their lives that that nation might live.

It’s a powerful gift, this life. A gift we dare not forget.

~Jody Brown was working in Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001. Her personal story of that day can be found in her debut novel, Upside Down Kingdom.

The Water Witch & the Flow of Distant Tributaries

water witching postA few years ago, my sister and her husband bought a house in the countryside that had been vacant for a while and whose well had gone dry. Rather than pay to tap into the county water line that was two miles away, they decided to dig another well. The question was where. The neighbors down the road told them to contact the water witch, a man well known in the area for finding underground water on your property. After researching their options and talking to contractors in the area, it seemed all roads did, indeed, lead to the water witch. Despite the playful title, the man is highly esteemed by the local water authorities and the county for his successful track record.

So, my sister called him, and the elderly gentleman came to their house at the appointed day and time, and walked the property with his dousing rod. He found three places for them to dig, one of which was his personal recommendation, but if for any reason they had trouble getting the equipment for digging the well to reach that spot, he showed them the other two.

They organized a well digging, and eureka! They found water at the number one spot. Three cheers to the water witch!

When the water was tested and found potable, they installed a clean, new reservoir in their basement to act as a reserve supply and they were finally able to remove their “camp shower” and to stop buying carloads of water from the bulk surplus stores.

(Obviously, I could make a point here about water conservation in California, or gratitude for clean drinking water as we saw this week in Toledo, Ohio, but I’m a blogger, not a reporter. ((If anything, I’m more of a Poet Reporter, presenting the world as I see it through a poet’s eye.)) So, here’s the point I’m actually going to make, and it begins with why the well was dry.) Reasons for well dry-up are multifarious, and include soil consistency, mineral deposits, rust, overuse, drought, and, curiously enough, under-use. Imagine water underground, surging, flowing, trickling, seeping—doing its waterly thing. Over time, sediment can build up, preventing slow-moving water from flowing in certain directions, causing it to reroute. But by drawing water out, a flow can be created that keeps water running toward that access point.

Much like people, water goes where it’s drawn. If you’re like me, drawn to writing, then write. The more you do it, the more it flows. From further and further out, the words and ideas come. Maybe today it comes out non-potable and you have to use it to water the plants. Your effort is not wasted; the very act of drawing out the words helped some distant tributaries to redirect. Keep it up. They’re on their way to you.

Water Witch post~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing

Denting the Carapace

DSC00496From a WWII Veteran, whose life story I’m writing. She tells me:

I would say that the things that happen to you in life make you what you are. And make you sometimes different because the more you build inner reserves, the better you’ll be to face life.

When people don’t have too many experiences, or things that they have to wrestle with, in a most uncomfortable manner, they never learn. They never learn, because they don’t know how to learn. Nothing’s happened to them that ever dents that carapace.

There are a few things that I’ve had happen to me in life that I wish hadn’t. And there are many things that I’d like to have done better, who doesn’t? But it’s what you face up to. ~

Today and every day, we appreciate our own struggles for all that they’ve taught us, and we appreciate the struggle done by others on our behalf for all that they have given us.

Have a safe and reflective Memorial Day.

List-Makers

Super HeroWhen I was little, I was asked (as I now ask my nephew), “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Most times, I wanted to be a writer. But I went through a few other phases: hair stylist and orthodontist, based on fun adults I knew who got to do those things. There was also my archeologist phase, and the phases where I wanted to be Wonder Woman and Daisy Duke. (I admit I haven’t outgrown all of these phases.)

And of course, I always thought I’d work my way up to making a gajillion dollars, because that’s what the great people did.

And as a kid with an allowance (a minor allowance compared to heap of chores I had to do, with no help from my sister—Just checking that my mom is reading this), I would dream up all the things I was going to do with the money once I made my first gajillion. I would help people; I would donate; I would travel and meet people and learn as much as I could. I would change things for the better. I would make a difference.

Don’t we all have a list like that? A list that we keep adding to, even as adults?

Listening to the news makes one wonder where all the list-makers are. I’m stunned and saddened these last couple days that bigotry is not dead. That having your gajillion doesn’t equate to having culture. That you can travel the world and gain nothing but a closed mind.

It’s time to let childlike wonder bring us back to center again. Find your list. Add to it. And if you never made one, make one now and carry it with you. Look at it often enough that you begin to see how you can accomplish those listed things, even without the gajillion dollars.

We list-makers, we believers in hope, in inclusivity, and in betterment, our time is now. We need to take the world back, by living one check mark at a time.

~
Upside Down Kingdom is my first book.

Indelible

I’ve got Hobbits on the brain today. (Who doesn’t??)

But I’m a little disgruntled, and here’s why: Adventure.

In the movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Bilbo sprints from the Shire shouting about how he’s “going on an adventure.” He’s almost bragging about it. And his news is simply taken at face value.

Ah, but in the book, Tolkien goes into a great explanation about Hobbits and their ways, especially the extent of their ways of comfort. They don’t go far. They don’t seek what’s around the corner. And they’re distrustful of anyone who does. They do not go on adventures. But if a Hobbit should try, as Bilbo certainly does (with some definite coaxing), he will be looked upon as different. And not in a good way.

Bilbo’s adventure took risk. Not just risk of life and limb, but risk that he’d be shunned by his friends and neighbors, by everyone with whom he’d spent his life to this point. Eyes will roll. Backs will turn. Doors will close.

Bilbo’s entire way of life, from the moment he decides to step out his door, is forever changed. And he knows it.

And he also knows that he must. And the moment he realizes this, the very moment he becomes aware, he knows that whether he goes on the adventure or not, he’s already different.

He’s awake now, and cannot live his life as though he were asleep.

photoThink of your own family, going back and back and back. Were they always from wherever you now sit? If so, you may be the first to find that spirit of adventure. But, more likely, somebody in your line took a courageous step to get to where you are right now. Yes, it’s quite likely that the indelible spirit of adventure and of determination in the face of adversity already courses through your veins.

Well, that’s a big cat out of an equally large bag. Now you know why you’ve always felt a little bit different. I’m with you. I’m a little bit different, too. And we’ll get through this…

With gusto.

~
My first book of adventures, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

Word Nerds: Top 10 Ways to Know You’re a Poet

Ten Ways Poets Think that Set Them Apart

Poets:

10. Practice paying attention to the world around them

9. Seek to find just the right word for the job

8. Read and write (a lot!)

7. Are open to new experience

6. Have passion, focused or general, and especially for words

5. Explore forms of writing that are out of the ordinary

4. Think in metaphors

3. Enjoy using words in surprising ways

2. Pay attention to beauty of words

1. Play with words the way children play with toys, and for the same reason

If you think in some or all of these ways, pick up a pen and paper or hit New Doc on your screen and get working without delay. What you have to say might just change the world.

 

~
SONY DSCJody Brown is a poet, novelist, multi-blogger, and traveler. She’s leading a Poetry workshop at The Salon on Saturday, and will be a panelist at the Calvary Forum on Sunday with authors P.S. Duffy and Sister Karol. Her first novel, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

The Life of St. Patrick: The Stuff of Legends

photo-5Ah, St. Patrick’s Day! The day when we’re all Irish. Whether you’re out drinking Guinness, or green beer, Jameson, or enjoying a steaming cup of Irish Breakfast tea after pre-warming the kettle and the cup, here’s a little background on St. Patrick, because his life story has truly become the stuff of legends:

St. Patrick was born in Britain (right, Britain, not Ireland), to a wealthy Romano-British family. He was the son of a deacon, the grandson of a priest. As a teenager, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders, brought to the then pagan Ireland, and forced into slavery. Despite being a slave in a pagan culture, he contemplated and found God, and after six years, he had a vision that, if he could make it to the coast, there would be a boat waiting for him that would take him home.

The vision was strong enough to make him try. He risked all to get to the coast and soon found himself on a voyage home.

That’s quite a life story, but Patrick wasn’t done yet. Once home, he went to school to become a priest. And then—make sure you’re sitting down to read this next part:

He went back to Ireland.

Completely of his own accord, Patrick returned to the land of his captivity to introduce Christianity to the Irish. (I imagine that decision caused quite a stir initially among his friends and family, but the stories I’ve heard claim that when he sailed for Ireland, he did so with religious artifacts that were gifted to and bestowed upon him, blessings, if you will, ready for the church he would found.)

Upon his return to Ireland, it’s told that he converted thousands to Christianity, that he used the shamrock to illustrate the Holy Trinity to the Irish people (which is why we wear green), and he’s credited as one of the first public figures to denounce slavery.

If one life can do all that, then today, celebrate the crazy decisions you’ve made in your life. Forgive the past and dare to take a new risk. And proudly wear your Irish green, the color of potential.

Live up to the legend.

~

Further St. Patrick legend & trivia:

  • March 17 is the anniversary of St. Patrick’s death, and the day we remember his life and commemorate the arrival of Christianity in Ireland
  • St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated at the International Space Station
  • St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in Ireland and in most parts of the world
  • St. Patrick’s Day is recognized as a Catholic feast day–as such, the Lenten restrictions on food and alcohol are lifted
  • They say he’s never been officially canonized, that St. Patrick is a saint in name only as he died centuries before the canonization process came about in the 12th century
  • Legend has it, he drove the snakes out of Ireland (tongue-in-cheek; Ireland never had any snakes)
  • The Druid priest murders were said to have started in the Seventh Century. St. Patrick lived from AD 385-461.

For a great, illustrated read of St. Patrick’s story that adults and kids can enjoy alike, check out Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola.

While you’re at Amazon, have a look at my book, Upside Down Kingdom

Life in the Snow Globe

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You know you’re getting a lot of snow when…

5. It starts thundering. I was working in an office building in Minnesota the first time I experienced simultaneous thunder, lightening, and snow, and I tell you, for this East Coast kid, thundersnow is a weird anomaly that belongs only in a SciFi movie.

4. The power goes out because the snow is too heavy for the lines. I remember last May when it snowed 18 inches here, and my friend Dawn had no electricity for two days. She made homemade Mac ‘n Cheese on her grill and fed all the people who came in from the cold to stay at her house. Leave it to Dawn…

3. You can’t differentiate between snow bank and snow-covered garbage can. Numerous times, my neighbor has helped me dig out my garbage container when it gets buried by the plow. It’s an experience, though, to dig shoulder-level with the shovel, hoping to hit something.

2. Your house starts making weird cracking noises. Earlier today, I heard a loud crunch that sounded as if the front door had fallen off into the snow. I ran downstairs but nothing visible had happened. So far, the house is intact. But it’s groaning. And this thing is only getting started.

1. When you have to exit the front door, round to the back door, shovel to uncover the back door, then take a screwdriver and a hammer and chisel the ice under the back door, then repeat these steps for four days until the back door opens again–just as today’s blizzard was about to hit.

So far, today’s snowpocalypse includes heavy snow, blinding snow, hurl-down-an-inch-per-hour snow, thundersnow… The wind will pick up soon and them it will get worse. At least we didn’t get the freezing rain they predicted here before the snow, or the tornadoes. But the power just went out. Only 15 more hours of snow to go!

…….
If you have power, check out my first book on Amazon.

Groundhog Day

DSC00179Yesterday, I heard someone lamenting Groundhog Day because the groundhog always sees his shadow on account of all the camera flashes.

I’m a native of Pennsylvania, and as one who has been to the Gobbler’s Knob celebration, I’m here to set the record straight.

First thing’s first, let’s call him by his name, shall we? The groundhog is known as Phil, or Punxsutawney Phil, if you want to get technical. He’s named after the town in Pennsylvania where the ceremony takes place.

German ancestry runs high in Pennsylvania, and it is a German superstition that started this whole thing. Legend says that if a hibernating animal emerges on February 2nd (the Christian holiday of Candlemas), and leaves its burrow, we’ll have an early spring. If, on the other hand, the animal emerges and is frightened and retreats back into the burrow, we’ll have another six weeks of winter. The telling factor, the thing that scares the animal, is its shadow–which has everything to do with a cloudy or clear sky, not camera flashes.

Now, the weather forecast is certainly predicted ahead of time, and everyone knows whether it’s supposed to be cloudy or clear at dawn on February 2, but what’s the fun in that?

The “seeing of the shadow” celebration takes place up on the hill above Punxsutawney known as Gobbler’s Knob, in front of a crowd of hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of all ages who gathered from far and wide throughout the wintry night and either sat on the frozen muddy ground or simply stood for hours in the dark, waiting and anticipating.

All night long there is much pomp and circumstance with the revelry of the Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle. These men are dressed to the nines and wearing top hats, looking like they should be at an Inaugural Ball rather than the edge of the woods above a quaint blue-collar town in the middle of the night. There is singing, dancing, music, and cheering, and rumor has it that actor Bill Murray has been known to show up in the crowd to take part in the festivities. (If you don’t know the movie Groundhog Day, please, please, go watch it. It’s a brilliant commentary on how to find happiness in life.)

Camera flashes are the least of Punxsy Phil’s worries as, close to dawn, they turn on giant floodlights to illuminate the crowd-filled clearing of Gobbler’s Knob. At the break of dawn, the crowd gets silent as the Inner Circle knock ceremoniously on Phil’s burrow, and reach in to draw him out (wearing massive, claw-resistant gloves). And the crowd goes wild. It takes a good half hour to even figure out the winter-spring verdict.

Pennsylvanians have been doing this since 1887, though there aren’t written records going back that far. Phil has now officially seen his shadow 100 times, and hasn’t seen it only 17 times, as yesterday was a shadow day, yet again. Another six weeks of winter is in store for us.

But to draw people out of their warm beds into the chilly hills of Pennsylvania in February to wait in the elements all night, I tell you, that Phil is one magical groundhog. The celebration of Phil’s shadow is not only steeped in tradition, but is decorated with smiling faces, young and old, who gathered in a clearing for a chance at hearing those glorious words, “Early spring!” But while we always hope for spring, after this outdoor night, we know we can handle the winter.

~
My book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

Purity of the Pen

A Friday rant: I was talking with friends yesterday who told me that they haven’t read a book in years. “Maybe since grad school,” one said.

Friends, I can’t tell you how disheartening this is. I realize there are work schedules and kids and family obligations and things that come up, but to stop reading altogether??

I hear similar stories now and again, and no one ever thinks to explain themselves. They never stop and say, “Oh, you’re a writer, that’s right… Uh…” And they don’t think to lie awkwardly to me by saying that they’ve given up all reading except for mine. (I’m reminded of the Julia Roberts line in Pretty Woman when Vivian says, “When I’m with a guy, I’m like a robot, I just do it.” Then she looks at Edward and rolls her eyes and says, “Except for you.” And he smiles and says, “Of course not with me.”)

And every time this happens, I’m in polite company where I can’t exactly grill the non-reader on the whys and hows and ins and outs of their refusal to read. But mark my words here and now: I’m going to stop being so polite. I’ll start asking. My world, my love, depend on writing and knowing that there will be an audience there to gravitate to the words.

When IBM fired the bulk of their electrical engineers and logic designers last summer here in Rochester, they left a lot of very smart people out on the street to reinvent themselves. Is that what writers will have to do? Will the movies and videos of the world push us out so that if we’re not writing for the big screen we’re not being heard? Will we, gulp, go see the movie before we read the book?

The stark question presents itself: Will the writers write when there’s no one left to read?

photo-3That’s a sad state of affairs. But, ultimately, I think: Yes. We’ll continue. Bigger and better, even. We’re frivolous like that. We’re hopeful like that. We’re pure like that. Ultimately, we like to line the words up on the page. It doesn’t matter who’s looking.

With words, I can build worlds, solve puzzles, escape to new realms, fire up dormant emotions, and immerse myself in my own imagination. Some people need music, or art, or sound, or alcohol to do this (and more) for them. I get these things. I get launching into another place and allowing full possibility.

I remember learning to read as a small child and loving it. Life clicked for me. And I understand that some people don’t have the same love experience. We all know someone for whom reading is such a chore, and it’s possible that their numbers are increasing.

Please excuse my extreme curiosity here because I’m not trying to be rude but rather I just don’t know:

Where do they go in their minds?

What—what are they doing in there?

–J.B.