" /> Loose Leaf Notes: October 2005 Archives

« September 2005 | Main | November 2005 »

October 31, 2005

Boston Bound

landed or walking on shadow stilts.jpg AKA Landing: I found the dentist’s appointment card while rummaging through my pocketbook on October 29th. I was cleaning it out in preparation for my trip to Boston to visit my father in the hospital. The card said my next cleaning would be March 20. Isn’t that my dad’s birthday? The first day of spring? Will he still be here then? I wondered as my heart sank.

Everything was moving too fast. Even the sun moves across the sky fast this time of year, making the hours in a day short, and the pace of my trip preparation frantic. But I didn’t mind. I was trying to hold onto every last bit of normalcy. I felt safe in the daily routines of my life, even if packing added some extra work. I worried about what I would find in Boston and knew that once my plane landed there that my life might never be the same. The hospital staff had told my family that my father needed surgery to repair a broken neck vertebra, which he sustained in a recent car accident. At that point, a ventilator was breathing for him, and he was being tube fed. We were beginning to fear a worse case scenario and were gravely concerned about him undergoing surgery at his age (81) and in his condition.

On my last day home, one of the last things on my to-do list was to plant the 8 daffodil bulbs that I had recently bought at the Garden Center. Last year, I planted tulips and held a few aside, hoping to plant them the following year, once I had a better idea of where I wanted them. But when this year came along and I opened the brown bag of tulips bulbs, I found that they had crumbled to dust. I didn’t know how long I’d be in Boston. The ground might be frozen by the time I get home. I might really need to be cheered up this spring, I thought while digging in the garden.

Everything I did on that last day had a sense of intention and permanence to it. I learned when I lost my brothers, Jim and Dan, 4 years ago that the last few weeks of someone’s life might as well be set in stone because those are the memories you will play in your mind, over and over. Will my dad still be here when these daffodils bloom was all I could think of as I buried them.

If he wasn’t, I knew that daffodils wouldn't be enough to cheer me up.

The Good News Update: My dad was transferred from the regional hospital he was in to the New England Medical Center, where, according to their reassessment of his condition, it was determined that he would not be operated on. When I saw him Saturday, he was breathing on his own, and we were all feeling more encouraged and hopeful for his eventual recovery.

October 29, 2005

Scrabble Cat

alexcat.png Alex and I, once members of the same women’s circle, have been talking about playing scrabble together for the past 15 years. Learning that she was battling cancer was a likely factor that urged me to make the 45 minute drive out to her house and turn our intention into a reality.

She lives with her husband in a picturesque rural setting with a horse in the yard and a porch gazebo overlooking a couple of rolling acres. The first thing I noticed when I saw her was that she looked great. Her hair was the same as I remembered it, a wild and curly mane that reminds me of her love of horses.

After a long hug and a little catching up, the subject turned to scrabble, and she proceeded to tell me about a recent game in which she and her husband both scored over 500 points each!

“I think I’m out of my league,” was all I could say.

In the sunny kitchen alcove where we played, I sipped lemon tea while she dipped corn chips in guacamole and the cat stretched out beside the scrabble board.

“I like to take pictures of finished scrabble boards,” I told her. She understood, and after our game, not only did I take pictures of the scrabble board, but she showed me her art studio where got shots of the ink stamp station, the jewelry making station, the sewing station, and her painted and colored pencil art on the walls. Unfortunately, I later discovered that my camera had no film in it, and my digital camera wasn’t working right.

While we were in the studio, she gifted me with a beautiful turquoise and aventurine necklace that she made. I felt uncomfortable accepting such a generous gift.

“Let’s make a trade,” I offered. “I have some of my books in my car.” And so, before we said our goodbyes, I handed her my two books.

“This one is poetry…and…you might not choose to read this one,” I said as I handed her “The Jim and Dan Stories.” She knew it was about my brother’s deaths. “Be careful and use your intuition about what you want to take in right now,” I told her.

Alex read both books “cover to cover!” She emailed me 2 days later to tell me. I was surprised that she even would read a book about family loss considering what she is facing herself. But Alex is not your average person.

She wrote, “I was impressed at your careful note taking during times of stress. You made the story unfold, instead of telling it all from the endpoint, which feels more human and less preachy.”

She plans to suggest “The Jim and Dan Stories” be read and discussed at her book group. “Can I tell them you would come to the discussion?” she asked.

“Of course, I’d love to!” I answered. And then we set up another scrabble game at my place for sometime in November…after she gets back from her next (immunotherapy) treatment.

Photo: I did manage to retrieve one photo from the digital camera of the scene before we started our game. Alex’s cat was the referee.

Note to Readers: I’m closing up shop for the moment and heading to Boston to see my dad who had a car accident on the 17th and is now preparing for neck vertebrae surgery. I’m excited that I’ll be seeing him soon, maybe even before the operation. He can’t talk because he is hooked up to a ventilator, but he is writing on paper. He recently wrote “I love you all,” and complimented one of the doctors for being a “good looking Irishman!” Stay tuned. Posts will likely be erratic.

October 28, 2005

Happy Birthday Sherry!

sheandcoll1971.png …Sherry was still on crutches when she came to live with me in my first apartment in Quincy. It was the early 70’s, a time when the flower child innocence of the 60’s was just beginning to sour. But we were still innocent and because we worked in a factory together, we call this period in our lives our “Laverne and Shirley Days”-- after the popular sitcom with Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams whose characters also worked in a factory. ~ From Setting the Bone and the Record Straight, “The Jim and Dan Stories.”

Today is my sister Sherry’s birthday. Not only has she played a prominent role in my life – we shared the same bedroom as girls and then lived together in our first apartment – her support and enthusiasm for my writing was instrumental in the manifestation of my first book “The Jim and Dan Stories,” about growing up together in the 50 – 70s, and then losing two brothers in 2001. Sherry is a reoccurring character in the book as the below excerpt “Some Things Don’t Change All That Much” illustrates…

“Dear Abby, How can I get rid of freckles?” was my first published piece, written sometime during my pre-teen years. But my interest in writing really started several years later in the bedroom I shared with Sherry when I read her my first attempts at poetry. We also used makeshift microphones to sing along with the Bob Dylan songs playing on our green hi-fi stereo. Bob Dylan’s lyrics woke me up to language more than anything in school ever did.

As teenagers, our bedrooms were our sanctuaries, places we could make our own. I covered the floral print wallpaper I had outgrown with purple tissue paper from the boutique I worked at in Boston. I pasted cut-out characters from “A Yellow Submarine” and “Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club” on it.

Jim and Dan were in the room across from us playing Jim’s record albums, “The Doors,” “The Kinks,” or maybe “The Four Tops.” Their room never changed all that much; it wasn’t as creative as ours was. Jim’s weather gauges hung on the wall, along with a BB gun rack and some sports team pennants. Their bunk beds were in the corner across from the large wide bureau, the one that Dan and Sherry tried to sleep in once.

They were supposed to be in their beds asleep when Dan got his bright idea. They took out all the clothes and put in pillows and blankets. It would be fun, Dan told Sherry, like camping. Dan, who was seven then, promised Sherry, who was five, that he wouldn’t shut the drawer on her. He got her settled in and then climbed in himself in the drawer just above hers. They weren’t in there long when the whole thing fell forward, crashing down with the sound of an explosion, which brought my dad upstairs in a hurry. The whole time Dan was facing my father’s wrath, he was trying to tell him that Sherry was still in the drawer. Dan was worried about Sherry because he promised he wouldn’t shut the drawer, and he knew she was afraid of the dark.

We made collages for Jim and Dan’s wakes from photographs taken of them over the years. In most of the pictures, Dan was holding a baby or had his arm around a niece or nephew. We knew the grown-up Dan loved kids, but what really surprised us were the pictures of Dan when he was younger. In almost every one, he had his arm around an even younger brother or sister. In one telling photo, Dan, who was maybe three, was sitting next to my mother on the porch with his arm stretched out touching the baby (Sherry) on her lap. He had a big grin on his face.

Dan was a lover and a champion of the lesser. And Sherry was always enthusiastic about my poems. It occurred to me recently how she’s playing that role again. I’ve been emailing each story to her as I finish, and she has been urging me to go on.

Some things don’t change all that much. It’s ironic how we spend so many years trying to grow up, only to become who we already are.

Photo: Visiting our parents for Christmas in 1971 when Sherry and I lived together in Quincy, Massachusetts. This was during the time we both worked together in a factory, before she went on to become a nurse and I became a day-care teacher. Happy Birthday, Sherry! I love you.

October 27, 2005

Thirteen Thursday

13thursday3.png1. I have my suitcase in my bedroom, but it’s not packed. My dad is in the hospital and we are all on the edge of our seats.
2. My current favorite movie is “Off the Map.”
3. This week, I got my teeth cleaned, my hair cut, and a new timing belt put on my car.
4. My sister, Tricia, and I have the same car (Honda CRV). Same color. Same year. Same kind of mess in the back seat.
5. Tricia and I have an ongoing long list of similarities that we share (keeping our cars messy is just one of them), but I wish one of us would write the list down.
6. I like the language of lists. I think making them is more an exercise in poetics than the construction of prose composition is. In list making, one disjointed line leads to another and you can condense a lot into one sentence.
7. At the dentist, with an intrusive tube and a buzzing tool in my mouth, I felt sad thinking about all the stuff the nurses and doctors are doing to my dad, and I wondered how it would feel to have a tube down my nose.
8. This week, I’ve been darning our wool sweaters. I hang them on the clothes line and beat them like rugs.
9. My potato crop isn’t nearly as prolific as last year’s. I feel very Irish when I harvest potatoes, or like a pirate digging for buried treasure.
10. I thought I would enjoy the unraveling of some of the Bush Administration’s architects of the Iraq war (Thinking Rove, Libby, Cheney, and the forged document from Niger here) more than I am. It seems a little too little, too late.
11. Yesterday, I researched phosphorus and looked up the word Atelectasis (not in the regular dictionary) because my sister was low in phosphorus when she had her seizure and my dad has developed some atelectasis, a collapse of part of his lungs.
12. A cyber friend who is planning a website on quotes asked to use this quote from my blog bio “Whenever I don’t know what it is I’m doing and it borders on wasting my time, I call it research.”
13. Remember that white streak I told you I have in my hair. Nah…just kidding. It’s a wig.

Leanne, the master conductor of 13 Thursday keeps a list of participants at Artist by Nature. Check it out.

October 26, 2005

Google: The Oracle

Who needs a fortune cookie or a psychic reading for the latest predications or insight into yourself? Just type your own name like this “colleen is” in a google search engine and see how accurate the oracle can be.

is teaching "Breaking into Film/TV.
Colleen is endorsed by the Washington State Fire Department.
Colleen is featured in a television commercial
Colleen is a practical person whose goals are planned, practical.
Colleen is secretive.
Colleen is empathetic and compassionate with her clients.
Colleen is a regular radio personality guest.
Colleen is an excellent choice.
Colleen is proud to have been there from the beginning.
Colleen is here!
Colleen is the artist and designer of the series.
Colleen is heating up rooms large and small.
Colleen is aware that relapse is always possible.
Colleen is self-willed!
Colleen is a writer and editor.
Colleen is drawn to the alchemy of painting;
Colleen is finally rocking her to sleep.
Colleen is a good mother and the pups are doing well as can be seen from the photo.
Colleen is a wise and patient teacher, truly a spiritual person who cares.
Colleen is also a dedicated, hard-working community volunteer.
Colleen is a sight-seer on vacation!
Colleen is working on new patterns and we will see in the future.
Colleen is allowed to have a couple of her friends stay with her.
Colleen is working with reporters at the leading radio news.
Colleen is a blur.
Colleen is a size 4, 5' 6", and weighs 110 lbs.
Colleen is very tired and thirsty.
Colleen is now a loner, left to scour the island for food by herself.
Colleen is no longer an option.

This idea was borrowed from Mary at “garden mantis.”

October 25, 2005

Loose Leaves

leaves.png I wade through a sea of leaves on my daily walk to the mailbox. Most people rake leaves this time of year, but there’s no point in doing that in my sprawling yard, where their presence is like an endless incoming tide. By spring most of them will have decomposed and be reduced down to only about half a dozen wheelbarrows full. They collect around my flower gardens, and I have to rake then if I want to enjoy my daffodils and crocus.

I find myself collecting leaves in October like I collect shells when I’m walking on the beach. Wanting to preserve their beauty, I press them in my large red American Heritage dictionary. I have big ideas of what to do with them next, but my ideas never seems to materialize. Some leaves have been in my dictionary for many years, so that when I look up a word, pieces fly out or crumple into dried confetti. Sometimes a faded green shamrock from Ireland or a purple wildflower, collected while hiking on the Parkway, will spill out onto my burnt orange living room carpet and tell a story of a day already lived.

Eulogy for Falling Leaves

Some die of natural causes
They drift to the ground and close their eyes
Leaving their perfectly unmarked bodies
scattered like photographs of my ancestors

I collect the ones that look familiar
I write their obituaries and bury them in books
Or I lay them out on the kitchen table
like old lace doilies at an open casket wake

Soon they will fade and crumble to dust
Some are skeletons already
Some have been eaten like the red wool hat
that I left in my pantry all summer

Others I suspect have leapt to their death
the way people jump off the Brooklyn Bridge
They land like broken-hearted sunsets
that absent-minded people later walk on

The sassafras leaves look like ragged mittens
curled up from sitting at the woodstove too long
I match them in pairs, save them for winter
or remember them in a nursery rhyme

Soon there are leaves all over
Maple, poplar, dogwood and oak
transforming into compost for future generations
in bonfire piles of light going out

October 24, 2005


redmankids_sm2.png“I WANT THIS PLACE LOOKING LIKE A MILLION BUCKS BY THE TIME YOUR MOTHER GETS HOME!” was a family anthem, coined by my father and heard often when we were growing up. He would usually end it for good effect with “OR HEADS ARE GONNA ROLL!” … Here’s another Redman anthem from our childhood (recited in sibling birth order): God bless Mommy, Daddy, Jimmy, Kathy, Colleen, Danny, Sherry, Johnny, Joey, Bobby, and Tricia. As mad as we could be at each other, after a day of bedlam, we would kneel by our beds with hands folded and say this prayer. When we got older, we said it in our beds because kneeling was for little kids. I said this prayer until I reached the age of 20, and I’m sorry that I ever stopped. It was always said quickly, in one long breath, as though it were all one word, as though it were all one thing that could never be divided. ~ From Colleen’s book “The Jim and Dan Stories.”

When my husband and I first met, we clicked right away. It might have had something to do with the fact that we share a similar background. We both come from families of 9 siblings. “Sort of like sharing the same nationality,” I had said. But we also share that.

I’m Irish on my father’s side of the family and German on my mother’s side. My husband is Irish on his mother’s side and German on his father’s. In fact, his father was born and raised in Germany, which is the root of this family story:

When his parents were courting, at one point his mother asked his father, “Do you like children?” To which his father vehemently answered, “Nein!” (Pronounced NINE but meaning NO in German).

Apparently, his mother heard NINE, and the rest is history. My husband’s family prayer probably went like this… God Bless Mommy, Daddy, Barbara, Maryanne, Rosemary, Michael, Joey, Maureen, Stephen, Jimmy and Larry.

Taken in 1996 for my parents 50th wedding anniversary at Stony Beach, in Hull, Massachusetts, where we grew up. Back row: Jimmy, John, Joey, Bobby, Danny. Front row: Sherry, Colleen, Kathy, Tricia.

October 22, 2005

Somebody Upstairs Likes Him II

A st. 2.png He was an artillery soldier in Patton’s army, and he always maintained that the only reason he survived the war was because of the big cannon-like gun he stood behind. Standing behind his “Long Tom,” surviving the war when so many didn’t, is probably where his trademark saying began: “Somebody upstairs must like me.” ~ From “Let Me Clue you in about My Father” Colleen’s essay that was read on WVTF Public Radio.

I talked to my dad on the phone today! Since his car accident on Monday, shock, drugs, and exhaustion have kept him from being alert and have made it hard for his family to know whether we should expect him to recover or not. “When can I talk to Colleen?” he asked my sisters and mother who were in his hospital room when I called.

One of my sisters told me that he woke up in the middle of the night and asked the nurse where his daughters were. On another occasion he asked for a mirror. And long before this accident he told my sister who is a nurse that if anything ever happened to him he wanted to be brought back at all costs. My dad, who survived the horrors of WWII combat, witnessed the unspeakable when his regiment liberated Buchenwald Concentration Camp, and struggled most of his life to overcome alcoholism, is a fighter and lover of life.

Because of the neck brace he was wearing, it took some effort to understand some of what he said, but he answered everything I asked. There were a couple of pauses in our phone conversation… where he might have been drifting off. Ultimately, it didn’t matter what we said, as much as it mattered that we were talking. I enjoyed listening to him breath in between words, even as it was labored.

None of my family members are “phone talkers.” My dad least of all. The funniest answering machine message I’ve ever heard was one of my dad’s. I called his house once and the answering machine picked up, at which point I heard his voice simply announce (in a tough Boston accent), “State your business.”

So, after a few more verbal exchanges, I laughed and said, “Dad, this is the longest you’ve talked on the phone with me in the last 20 years!” Soon after that he said, “Okay…I’m signing off now…”

“I love you dad,” I answered before the phone got passed to each one of my 3 sisters and my mother so that we could revel in my dad’s progress together. We know he’ll be facing a long recovery process that will likely involve time spent at a rehab center, but today was a first step in the right direction towards getting my father back home.

Photo: My mom and dad in front of their house.

October 21, 2005

Family Bonds

bobandtrish.png Love makes people ferocious. ~ Michael Mead

My family tends to go through dramatic events in pairs. First there was a sister and a brother who were both hit by cars when they were teenagers. Both were pedestrians about the same age and needing to change the life course they were on when it happened, both sustained broken legs which required surgery and hardware, and both went on to live with an older sibling after their long recoveries.

When one of my niece’s was fighting for her life due to complications of pneumonia, a nephew was coming into the world under emergency duress. And of course losing my brothers, Jim and Dan, four years ago was the epitome of a family pattern of tragic symmetry. Their deaths paralleled and intertwined as though a plan was unfolding.

Earlier this week, another unbelievable family story unfolded in a synchronistic way. It started when I received a shocking email from my sister, Kathy (who has also blogged about this), telling me that our youngest sister had a grand mal seizure and was in the hospital. It was not her first seizure, but the last one she had was 13 years ago, incredibly…on the same date as this one. Her two young sons, heroes of the day, were with her when it happened. The six year old called 911.

Later that day, a second shocking email arrived in my mailbox. My mother and sisters were with my youngest sister in the hospital when a nurse came in and asked if they knew Robert Redman, my father! My father had been in a car accident, and the nurse did some detective work after he told the hospital staff when he was admitted that his daughter had a seizure earlier in the day and was in the same hospital. One was in room 12, the other in room 21.

My sister is home now and doing well, but my dad is still in the ICU. Although he is expected to recover, I can’t help but think of Jim, who was killed in a crushing industrial accident, when I think about the impact that my father endured. And I can’t help but re-live the experience of being with Dan in the ICU the last weeks of his life when I hear the ups and downs of my dad’s daily progress. Emails and phone calls between family members are flying across the air waves, nerves are raw, and tears are on the surface, just like those last weeks with Dan.

Blogging can also be a vehicle of synchronicity. On the same day, I was held in the grip of this family crisis, my blogger friend, Lu, unknowingly reminded of the strong bonds and love I have for my family. She had recently read my books and then reviewed them on her site. Here’s what she said about "The Jim and Dan Stories…"

…as much as this book is about colleen and her family and their tragedies...it is about my family and your family and anybody's family...it's about unconditional love...and bonds that can’t be broken...its about memories and legacy...it is about the human spirit.

Thanks, Lu! It seems that the story goes on…and so does the strength of the human spirit.

Photo: Family events occurring in pairs aren’t only those of a tragic nature. After the first 5 of us were born, the last four came in sets of two. These are the last two of the 9 Redman siblings in the early 1960s. They were inseparable at the time this photo was taken, and we could barely say the name of one of them without following it with the name of the other.

October 20, 2005

Thirteen Thursday

1. Yesterday I made a scrabble house-call to a friend’s house in Shawsville.
2. On the way, while driving, a can rolled into the street and I hit it. It didn’t have a chance.
3. My friend is an artist of many different mediums. I took pictures of her studio and her different art work stations.
4. When I got home I realized that I didn’t have any film in my camera. My digital camera isn’t working. If it was, I would have posted the beautiful sunny alcove in her kitchen where we played, and the scrabble board, a deluxe one, raised and set in wood. Her cat, who lay by the board the whole time we played, and her hands, with a ring on every finger, would be in the picture too.
5. A few days ago, I met another friend at a café in town. He suffers from a degenerative disease and has many other complications. He was worried and wanted to talk. He told me that the new Medicaid plan under the Bush Administration hurts people like him and that he will have to choose between food and medicine now.
6. I just heard that someone who attended the recent spoken word open mic was offended by the language in one reader’s poem. I’m wondering how I should feel about that.
7. Last night, I watched a movie with my husband, “The Human Stain” with Nicole Kidman and Anthony Hopkins. It had a surprise twist that I didn’t guess. I love when that happens.
8. My friend, who I played scrabble with, gave me a beautiful necklace she had made. I gave her a copy of each of my books.
9. An hour later, while checking out in Wal-Mart, I got a compliment on the necklace.
10. Last week, two birds got caught in my house. I just got one out and discovered there was another.
11. My family just went through and is still going through a family crisis. Somethings aren’t helpful to blog about, but how does a blogger go on as if nothing is happening?
12. My friend who I played scrabble with has cancer. I’m thinking about her a lot today.
13. I entered the “13 worst school pictures contest” over at Petroville. I really did pick out an ugly picture of myself, and I’m sort of worried that I’m going to win.

Thirteen Thursday is brought to you by Leanne at Artist by Nature. Thanks, Leanne!

October 19, 2005

Notable Quotables

Notes from my journal…
On writing poetry: Poetry is like math. You have to add meaning and sound together and make it equal the right answer.

On watching the nightly news: For me, it’s like watching sports and the newscasters are the referees. I flip around to all the channels to see how each station will call the day’s events.

On psychology: Freud is like the Old Testament and Jung is like the New Testament.

On my husband’s haircut:
There’s buzz and then there’s fuzz.

On sex: Anyone can do me. I can do myself. The question is can you undo me?

On my writing: Erma Brombeck meets Rumi?

On my own limitations: Sometimes my brain runs dry like a pen out of ink.

On the Muse: I can write without the Muse, but it’s like using a hose to water my garden when it really needs a soaking rain.

October 18, 2005

Poets on Stage

couch[1].pngFor awhile it looked like we would be reading without a mic. “Sort of like going bra-less,” I said to my friend. “You know, like not having any support…for your voice.”

She did an inter-active piece, once the Café Del Sol staff got the sound system figured out. She passed out index cards and pens before reading her prose, and when she was finished, she asked listeners to suggest a good ending.

I was next. I read a few poems about death, and then, just to prove that I do have a sense of humor, I read “Indian Summer.” The neighborhood dogs…are sitting out October…like wallflowers in the corner…they’re over dressed in fur... I actually got a request. “Can you read the scrabble poem?” the man with the beard asked.

After the bearded man (who doesn’t like to be mentioned on the internet) read a few emotional narrative poems, a new reader from Blacksburg closed the set, but not before the owner of the café, a local blues singer, adlibbed her own impromptu poem.

When it was over, a young high school student approached me to thank me and to tell me that she plans to bring her own poems to read next month. That’s good because that’s the point. Unlike the readings we do (about 4 times a year) at Floyd’s Oddfellas Cantina that mainly feature our Writers’ Workshop Group, the open mic spoken word nights are meant to give people of all ages and ilks an opportunity to share their voices.

The next Open Mic at the Café Del Sol (pictured in the photo) will be November 18th at 7: PM.

October 17, 2005

The Art of Make-up

make-up2.png AKA Just in time for Halloween…
One of my earliest childhood memories goes like this: When I was 5 years old, I found some pills in the bathroom medicine cabinet that looked like M&Ms. I promptly sampled them and quickly discovered that they weren’t candy. The medicine left my lips and tongue bright purple, which of course caused me to get busted by my mother. “Just in time for Halloween,” I remember her saying, which scared me because Halloween was weeks away. Were my lips and tongue going to stay purple?!

Years later in an unrelated event at the age of 13, during puberty and after a couple of fainting spells which landed me smack on the gym floor, my hair began to go white in a bold streak on the left side of my head. Then, to my horror, my eyebrow and eyelashes on that side also went white. I learned to use eye make-up and part my hair to cover the streak, and I feared the worst. Would I look as spooky as Mrs. Adams from the Adam's Family? Would I end up being completely white on one side and dark brown on the other? My mother took me to a doctor and all he said was “People pay money to have that done. You’ll love it when you’re older.” Six months later it stopped.

Many years after that and with the help of the internet, I learned that the loss of pigment I experienced has a name: “segmental vitiligo.” Vitiligo, which shows up most on African Americans (and which Michael Jackson claims to have), can spread all over the body and generally gets progressively worse with time. The kind I had, “segmental,” only lasts about 6 months and is only on one side of the body, most commonly the head.

This past weekend in a “can you guess the lie?” post, I revealed 4 things about myself, one of which was a lie. Most readers guessed that the white eyebrow was the lie. While I don’t have a photo of my white eyebrow, I do have a poem about it (posted below). The first time I read it in public, I looked up as I was reading and noticed that people’s mouths were dropped open and their faces looked strained, as though they were struggling to understand what the heck I was talking about. I laughed and lost my rhythm and had to start the poem over, but not before giving a better set-up and a little background information.

My Missing Eyebrow

I don’t go out without it
my eyebrow
neatly matched
like shoe and sock
to the other one

I wonder if it’s crooked
If other people take theirs for granted
I worry that they’ll smudge it
or accidentally rub against it

And who’ll put my eyebrow on
when I get old
when I can’t even see
where it goes?

And what if I forget
and leave the house without it?
Will people be shocked
bold enough to ask
What happened to your eyebrow?!

I envy those
with reliable eyebrows
two that look just like each other
and people who can go out
without checking in the mirror

to ask, Does it look convincing?
Will it draw attention?
Will it have the durability
to last all day?

Photo: Butterfly art by Steve, Halloween, maybe 5 years ago. The comb-over completely covers the white streak, which you can see a little better here." Don't forget to check out the related photo below: My Little Prodigy 2.

My Little Prodigy #2

It’s my sister Kathy’s granddaughter, Isabel, taken by her mom, Beth. My Little Prodigy #1 can be found here.

October 16, 2005

And The Winner Is…

The winners of yesterday “Liar Liar Pants on Fire Contest” are… Cindy at Twisted Cindy and Laura at Blue Stocking. They both followed their gut instinct and guessed correctly that I don’t have a shamrock tattoo. Most people (8 of them) thought the one white eyebrow was the lie. Check out the breakdown below:

1. Shamrock Tattoo?
I don’t have a shamrock tattoo or any tattoo for that matter. Although, my blog photo was taken in Ireland with a shamrock pinned to my sweater.

2. One white eyebrow? Number 9 on my list of 100 Things About Me reads: When I was 13 my hair went white in a streak on the left side of my head. It’s called segmental vitiligo. It’s a loss of pigment, which also involves part of my forehead, my eyebrow and eyelashes on one side, and is likely caused by a head injury. I’m very good with make-up. Sometimes when I have company or I’m visiting somewhere and I’m cleaning off my make-up at night, I shout out, “Wanna come see my white eyebrow?” Everyone comes to see it.

3. Job as a night watchman? In a clip from past post called Job Doesn't Work, I wrote…I once had a job as a night watchman. I live in a small town and I suppose the company that hired me didn’t think there would be anything too dangerous for a 5’ 1” 115 pound woman to watch out for. I spent a lot of time watching the night sky, the moon and stars. A perfect job for a poet, I thought.

4. Runway Modeling? I actually have done runway modeling, more than once. I even did it in skis. It happened nearly 25 years ago and I never got paid, but I can still do a mean twirl.

Thanks for playing, everyone. It was fun!

October 15, 2005

Liar Liar Pants on Fire…

One of the following is not true. Can you guess which one?
1. I have a shamrock tattoo.
2. I have one white eyebrow.
3. I once had a job as a night watchman.
4. I’ve done runway modeling before.

Siblings, hold your tongues until tomorrow. I’ll post the answer then, along with who got it right.
This idea was borrowed from Lu’s News…go see if her pants are on fire.

October 14, 2005

A Pot of Gold

joshspotteryshow3.png “Sometimes, at art openings, the people that come to them are more interesting to look at than the actual art,” Josh Copus whispered to me at Emily Kasinecz’s September 16th opening reception at Harvest Records. “Interesting art brings out interesting people. Hopefully the people at the New American Arts Collective show will be just as fun to look at as the art too.” ~ The Asheville Disclaimer

My eldest son, Josh – the Asheville potter who loves the Red Sox – is a mad artist and has been experimenting with art mediums since he could first hold a crayon…or scissors…or paintbrush…or a hole-puncher. Fortunately, because I was a day-care teacher, whose job it was to set up art projects, before having my own kids, I knew what to expose him to.

Today, he’s primarily a ceramic artist, but he also does collage journaling, drawing, print-making and super-hero costume making. Not only that, but he can write. Back in the early 80s, when MTV was good and Josh was only about 3 years old, I had some writing published in “Mothering Magazine” and was a regular contributor to another “attachment parenting” publication called “Nurturing.” During that time, I also submitted Josh’s art, poems, recipes, stories, and quotes, many of which were also published.

Recently, on our way home from Colorado, my husband and I stopped off in Asheville to surprise Josh at an art opening. The photo above shows some of his pottery that was featured at the opening, which was the result of a grant he received to explore the use of locally harvested clay. After some visiting and hobnobbing, after some after-show sushi, and decaf at a wireless café, we picked up a copy of “The Asheville Disclaimer,” and who did we find on the front cover side-bar…Josh.

The paper is mostly a spoof on the news, but their entertainment columns are for real, as was the one Josh appeared in… Visual Arts Rummage Sale: Caravanning around Asheville with the New American Arts Collective... “I got shivers,” said Copus as we headed to Emily Kasinecz’s show at Harvest Records, where we were greeted with frozen pizza, wine and a series of deceptively minimalist black and white photos. ~ The Asheville Disclaimer

Josh is a member of the newly formed New American Arts Collective. ...Josh Copus, predominately a ceramic artist, made his screen-printing debut at the show, which seemed to be well received. “Josh is really spontaneous with his printing style and I think that gives them more impact,” said Lisa Nance. ~ The Asheville Disclaimer

Last week, when we first met up with him, he had just come from a kiln building under the direction of a renowned potter visiting from Japan. This week he’s hosting a studio potter from England who he met this past summer while visiting master potters in that country.

The boy came in with a mission. It’s fun to see how richly he’s manifesting it.

Post note:
To read more about Josh's work click HERE and scroll down.

October 13, 2005

200th Post

My blog is 7 months old! In honor of my 200th entry, which actually happened when we were in Colorado, I’ve picked out some past excerpts to post:

Shortest Post: In My Own Handwriting ~ Found on a scrap of paper this morning and in my own handwriting: “If no one is going to quote me, I’ll quote myself.” Is that a quote?

Post with a swear word in it: Ani in the Rain ~ She played for an hour before saying to the crowd, “Oh shit, here we go, huh?” in reference to the rain that was soon to downpour, eliciting this from Ani, “What have we here? Whoooo!” And after describing the crowd as a light sculpture of changing colors that she was enjoying, she said, with a playful laugh, “And now you’re fixin to get wet… which would be very sexy.”

Post that got the most comments: Women Making a Difference (33) ~ As I listened to her talk and watched her face morph into those of our various relatives, I got shivers up and down my arms, feeling like we were 2 long lost twins re-united and comparing notes. Not only did we talk about our families, attachment parenting, and the current Cesarean rates, we also talked about the possibility of an afterlife and messages we feel that we’ve received from our passed on loved-ones. She doesn’t like driving in cities. She gets shivers easily too. “Oh, one of those big softy-heart Redmans, I see,” I said to myself. Exploring and discussing the deeper aspects of life is also a Redman forte.

Post that made readers cry: Danny’s Shoes ~ When Danny was almost four years old, he went to Florida with our grandparents for the summer, but they ending up keeping him for a whole year. A year might as well be a lifetime in the mind of a child, in the minds of children. I was five and was rummaging through the room that Dan and Jim shared when I found a pair of Danny’s shoes in the closet. They were a 1950’s style, brown with white in the center. Finding them was an abrupt reminder of the brother I used to have, the one I had forgotten about, the one I wanted back! I carried those shoes around with me all day while I cried inconsolably. I wanted my parents to witness my anguish, so they would get my brother back home for me…

Post that got published: Common Ground ~ …Abuse of power thrives in silence and silence is often obtained through fear. Name calling is one of the easiest ways to instill fear and stifle dissent. It can temporarily stop debate – debate that might be uncomfortable, but could also lead to understanding and change. But it doesn’t stop problems. In fact, without a constructive forum for dissent, resentments go underground, where they are fueled and can then cause existing problems to be magnified...

Post that I read on WVTF Public Radio: Let Me Clue You In About My Father ~ In a family photograph of my father, taken in Germany at the end of WWII, he’s standing in his army uniform holding a blonde German child in his arms. Her hair is parted down the middle, pulled tightly into two braids. She looks happy. When I was a little girl, I formed an opinion about that photograph. Regardless of the fact that I hadn’t been born when it was taken, I wondered why he was holding her when he should have been holding me…or one of my brothers or sisters at least. We all agreed that my dad was handsome and looked like Elvis Presley back then…

Most Romantic Post: I Met Him at the Laundry Mat ~ Besides what obviously attracts 2 people who later get married, Joe maintains the two things that initially impressed him most about me were my enthusiasm for those foraged apples and the big pot of lentil soup I had on the stove the first time he came to my house…

Recent Visits to Loose Leaf from Exotic Places ~ Iceland; Riga, Latvia; Praha Hlavni Mesto, Prague, Czech Republic; Tomsk, Russian Federation; Sana, Sanaa, Yemen; Serbia; Canary Islands, Bahrain.

October 12, 2005


apple of my eye.pngWherever you are is the entry point.” Kabir
The following essay about living in Floyd is the one which aired on WVTF public radio this past Friday and first appeared in my book, “Muses Like Moonlight.” It appears here in its entirety. For the radio reading, I cut paragraph 5, about Bo Lozoff, in order to keep to the 3 minute reading allotment. The sentence about moonshine and pot was cut as well. Although I mentioned it to point out the sense of self-reliance that some Floyd old- timers and new comers may have in common, it is too often an image of negative stereo-typing here, and so it was appropriate that it was cut.

I moved to the country 20 years ago with homesteading on my mind. Although I never lived in a solar home without indoor plumbing, as some of my neighbors do, I learned early on about woodstoves and where water comes from (besides from out of the faucet).

It was here, in the Virginia mountain county of Floyd that I learned to grow and preserve much of my own food. I grew herbs and made medicinal tinctures, home-schooled my young sons, and rarely saw a doctor. Here, farmers and back-to-the-landers live side-by-side. (Some have said that hold-out moonshiners and underground pot growers do too.)

The longtime natives and the mostly Yankee newcomers have more in common than was originally thought when the newcomers first began to arrive in the late 70s. What we have in common has something to do with being independent – something to do with a sense of place and working from where one is.

In Floyd we have locally famous artists, potters, wood-carvers, writers, and musicians; alongside well diggers, saw-millers, hunters, and home builders. We also have midwives, herbalists, dousers, and rites-of-passage ceremonialists. Is it any wonder that I publish my books from my log cabin home, from a make-shift office that used to be my son’s bedroom, which is why Grateful Dead posters still hang on the walls?

My husband is a counselor and one of his mentors is Bo Lozoff, author and co-founder of the Prison Ashram Project – a project that teaches meditation practice to prison inmates. After years of “in house” publishing, Bo’s latest book was published by a mainstream publisher. On a recent visit to the Human Kindness Foundation in North Carolina, where Bo and his wife live, Bo told my husband that mainstream publishing isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. He can’t get copies of his new book without buying them, which creates a problem since one aspect of the Prison Ashram Project is to make Bo’s books available to inmates free of charge.

What if everyone who had a talent got a big name contract and became a world product; what would small towns do? In my small town, old-time country is the traditional music, and we have many talented fiddle players and such. We also have talented hip hop reggae musicians and others who produce their own CDs. We’re famous for the Friday Night Jamboree that happens at the Country Store each weekend and, more recently, for our annual world music festival, known as “Floyd Fest.” Where else but in Floyd could you learn from an old-timer how to forage ginseng one day, and then meet Wavy Gravy, the Woodstock clown with an ice-cream flavor named after him, in town for Floyd Fest, the next?

I’ve met visiting shamans, renowned authors, teachers, and musicians in Floyd, but it’s the grassroots talent that we’re best known for. Just as Floydians are inventive about how they make a living, they’re creative about providing their own entertainment. Not only is there a varied local music scene here, but as a writer, I don’t have to leave town to participate in Spoken Word events because our downtown restaurants and cafés regularly host them.

I like the hometown feeling of personally delivering my books to local shops, or getting hand written cards with mail orders. I like working from my home, going to my computer, as I did recently, and finding an email from a reader in bold print, announcing: “I LOVED YOUR BOOK!!!!!! (The Jim and Dan Stories). And I value the fact that I have an ongoing dialogue with my community through the pages of the Museletter, a homespun local newsletter that has been my writer’s training ground for the past 20 years. Because of it, I have a small, but supportive, local audience that knows me as a writer and poet.

Every town needs a poet or two, just as it needs an auto mechanic, a grocery shop owner, and an “in house” band. Every town is a microcosm of the whole world. If we stay where we are and invest in our own community, the whole world eventually comes to us.

Post note:
You can still hear my reading of the essay at the WVTF website. You may have to download realplayer to hear it, if you don’t already have it. Also, there is a Spoken Word Open Mic Night at the Café Del Sol this Saturday night at 7:00. For those who live nearby enough, come sign up for a 5 or 10 minute slot or just come to listen and enjoy.

October 11, 2005

Road Talk

aspens.pngIt looks like we left Colorado just in time, before the 20 some odd feet of snow came down. Here, at home, we haven't even had a frost. The colorful fall foliage is getting a late start, and the strange changing weather patterns are evident by the fact that it’s mid October and I’m still picking tomatoes!

Overheard in our truck while driving back from Colorado…
Joe to Colleen: How do you like your new truck?
Colleen: How do you like me now?
Joe: Can you hear me now?
Colleen: The power of now?
Joe: Flowing with the Tao.
Colleen: How now brown cow?
Joe: Cowabunga!
Colleen: Touché
End of conversation.

Photo: Camping in the Colorado Aspens, just below Independence Pass

October 10, 2005

Silver and Gold

silverandgold.png I thought of my brothers, Jim and Dan, a lot during our road trip out west. Every time I saw an unusual cloud formation, I thought of Jim, the amateur weatherman with a flag at the Blue Hill Observatory erected in his honor after his death 4 years ago. Listening to music on the truck stereo, I thought about Dan, who died a month after Jim, because Dan was the one who used to turn me on to all the latest good music. I especially thought of him when “Let it Be” came on, the song my sisters and I sang to him just hours before he passed away.

It’s hard not to look out a stretch of endless highway, or stand on a mountaintop with an expansive view and not look for my brothers. In these situations the lack of them looms as large as the mystery of death feels close.

On the road trip, we drove our new/used Toyota Tundra, the same kind of truck that Dan drove when he and Jim came to visit me in Virginia just weeks before the first death, which made me remember the following conversation I had with Dan, excerpted here from “The Jim and Dan Stories.”

…Dan was proud to show off his new 2001 golden-beige Toyota Tundra to me. “I never would want a brand new car or truck. You need so much insurance and have to worry about every scratch,” I complained.

“Well that worry is out of the way,” Dan said, referring to the big scratch on the fender. Then he said something about it being the last truck he would have, so why not get the truck of his dreams.

He had wanted Jim to have the Tundra if his liver transplant didn’t come through, and he took out a credit life insurance policy on it, just in case...

Ironically, I was writing this entry, while riding home from Colorado in the Tundra, on my brother Dan’s birthday, but, being on a road trip and barely knowing what day of the week it was, I didn’t know it. Later, when I checked my email, I saw a message from my sister Sherry to our family Love Link with the heading, *Happy Birthday to Dano.* No wonder I was thinking so much about him, I thought!

My brother Jim, who was a lover of storms, was more at home with the elements than he was with people. As the stories progressed, his essence began to emerge as the mysterious changing qualities of the moon... Dan was compassionate and generous. His bright light was personified by the sun. A silver and gold thread began to shine through the dullness of my grief and weave itself through the stories… The mythical presence of Jim and Dan, expressed through dreams, symbols, and the coincidences that my family and I shared, supported me in my grief and became the signposts out of it. (Jim and Dan Stories/Introduction)

Because Dan was not married, he named my parents the beneficiary of his new truck. After he died, the Tundra went to them. But at ages nearing 80, they weren’t about to drive a big truck and were able to get two cars, one for each of them, in trade for Danny’s. One is gold and the other is silver.

Two brand new cars sit in their driveway as big as life. One is gold and the other is silver. The physical manifestations of Jim and Dan in spirit? Two vehicles, or magical chariots to carry my parents safely and comfortably through the rest of their old age? The gold dust of sun? The silver dust of moon and stars? What magic is being woven? (Jim and Dan Stories)

Post note: Silver and Gold became the name of the small press my husband and I started and the web page in honor of my brothers, which is a contact site for my books.

October 9, 2005

Girl in Dorm Room!

rowanandcolleen2.pngOn our way home from Colorado and through Kentucky, my husband Joe and I stopped at Berea College to visit Rowan, a young family friend and member of the Floyd community. Not only was it against the rules to have females in the dorm, it was the wrong time of day for visitors of any kind. Rowan’s roommate came in the dorm room and asked, jokingly, if we were some kind of older foreign exchange students.

I was standing on a chair in front of Rowan’s computer holding a book by Lao Tzu that I had just grabbed off a high shelf. “What’s all this standing on chairs?” he asked, as I proceeded to read a passage from the book. And then he got more serious or curious and asked if we were Rowan’s parents.

“The next best thing,” Joe said, explaining how Rowan spent a lot of time at our house and that, growing up in a community, he has many surrogate parents.

That same day, we made our way to North Carolina to surprise my Asheville potter son who loves the Red Sox at an art opening in which his pottery was being featured. We woke up the next morning in front of his warehouse studio/home (see yesterday’s photo) 31/2 hours from home.

What do you think of Rowan’s leopard print sheets? And my son Josh’s pottery? Check it out here and here.

Post Note: You can listen to my essay, which aired on WVTF public radio on October 7, about living in Floyd, by going to http://www.wvtf.org/news.htm

October 8, 2005

Full Circle

josh'splace.jpg Two of us sending postcards…writing letters…on my wall…we’re on our way home…we’re going home... ~ The Beatles

Joe has become so adept at driving through the long stretch of monotonous highway in Western Kansas that he can change his clothes while driving! When we left Bob and Rose in Breckenridge, it had just started snowing, and now we are peeling off layers and feeling the culture shock of going from majestic mountain views of up to 12,000 feet of elevation to the wide open flatland of Kansas. The most interesting thing we’ve seen in the last hour is several acres of sunflowers dead on their stalks with their heads bowed down.

I reach for my notebook to write as Joe pops a CD in the stereo…Beatle music from the movie “I Am Sam.” What we hear couldn’t be more perfect if we planned it. You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead…We’re on our way home…We’re on our way home…We’re going home.

Post Notes: WVTF, our regional public radio aired my essay yesterday, Homegrown, which was taken from my book Muses Like Moonlight. I plan to post the essay later in the week. To hear me reading it go to http://www.wvtf.org/news.htm and click on October 7.
The photo above is of our camper safely landed in front of my son Josh's pottery studio in Asheville, North Carolina.

October 7, 2005

Kissing Cousins

bobandcolleen2.jpgMy husband, Joe, and I first visited my cousin Bobby and his wife Rose in Breckenridge Colorado ten years ago. Even though it was mid-June, we still had to use a snowmobile to get to their snow covered mountain top home at an elevation of 11,000 feet.

Bob, part die-hard tattooed flower child, part independent mountain man, is my kissing cousin, which means that we had a crush on each other for a short time when we were kids, the way cousins often do. He, who still has a strong Boston accent, is a renowned master woodcrafter, carrying on the long line of German Lutheran carpenters that we share.

Our visit was shorter this time but was still packed with high energy conversation and antics (and even some kisses all around). It was fun to reminisce, to catch up with family doings, vent about the Bush Administration a little, and talk to someone who remembers the Paragon Park roller coaster in Hull, Massachusetts!

Thanks for the dinner and gifts, Bob and Rose. We love you!

October 6, 2005

Hitting the Plateau

marroonbells.jpg What is Wilderness? An area untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. ~ Wilderness Act 1964, seen on a sign at Maroon Bells.

Driving up to Maroon Bells Recreation Park, past a sign for “Marmot Crossing,” past a man rollerblading with ski poles, I’m thinking: There’s only so much sightseeing you can do before your already filled-up senses become overloaded.

Aspen is so picture perfect that it almost has a “Stepford Wives” surreal feel to it. And the Maroon Bells – a series of maroon rocked mountain peaks just outside Aspen – is the Mabry Mill of Central Colorado.

Mabry Mill – an old water powered grist mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia – is the most photographed tourist site in my part of the country. The Maroon Bells is as equally photographed. So much so that in the 1980s an advertising company used an image of it to illustrate the mountain beauty of Utah!

Hikers and hunters and a large group of school kids on a field trip filled the parking lot. As we headed down the path to the best view of the Bells, the first thing we saw was a Native American man in full Pow Wow dance regalia coming towards us. He didn’t make eye contact when he passed, and because we figured he was engaged in a spiritual ceremony, we didn’t invade his space by asking if we could take his picture – but we wanted to.

Further up the path, we came upon a woman breaking down her photography equipment. She was a freelance journalist for the Snowmass Sun working on an in-depth story, she told us. “We’re not letting anyone photograph the Native American man (1/2 Piute from Nevada and ½ Kiowa from Oklahoma), not even the school children, she said, before moving on.

“Hey, when someone asks me where I’m from, should I give them the short answer (Virginia) or the long answer (originally from Boston, Massachusetts)?” I asked my husband, Joe. In this case, I used the long answer. We had asked two guys passing by who happened to be from Beacon Hill in Boston to snap a picture of us. One of the guys and I argued a bit.

“Put down that notebook,” he insisted. “It ruins the composition of the picture.”

“No, No. I’m blogging this,” I answered. “The notebook fits, and the caption below will probably read: Look who has her notebook under the Maroon Bells,” I added.

After a while, we walked back towards parking lot along the Maroon Lake, which is so clear that Joe spotted a cutthroat trout swimming in it. Remembering the struggle I went through earlier that morning (see yesterday’s post), I realized that I was smiling and said to Joe, “I’m managing to have some fun, after all. I guess my appetite for beauty has come back!”

October 5, 2005

Mountain Therapy

maroonbellswriter.jpg All roads eventually lead to my primal pain, not for the purpose of causing me more misery, but for the opportunity to heal it.

My husband and I spent five days in a family shared condo in Aspen for his brother’s wedding. Of those five days, I became emotional, for some reason or another, nearly every day. Although I’m not generally a person who cries easily, I was moved to tears during the wedding ceremony and then again at the John Denver Memorial Sanctuary. On my last day in the city, while visiting an art gallery, it was a still-life painting of peaches by William Martin that brought me to tears. Beauty, sadness, and happiness are all understandable reasons that a person might be brought to tears. But wait. There is more…

Whenever I’m traveling, and I’m out of my comfort zone of daily routines and surroundings for an extended period of time, my sensitivities eventually surface. I’m easily worn out by a hectic pace or by extended interactions with others. When that happens, my feelings can be easily hurt. I may feel self-conscious or even abandoned.

In this case, a boundary was crossed that caused me distress. After expressing my distress to the individual involved, I thought I had moved on, but soon found myself thinking about the incident and then dwelling on it.

On the fifth day, we moved out of the condo and headed for the Maroon Bells Recreation Park to camp. We awoke in a beautiful natural setting, and during my morning meditation, my distress resurfaced. This time I was able to recognize that my over-reaction was less about the recent incident at hand and more a re-stimulation of an older and deeper distress. Seeing the bigger picture and connecting the dots was helpful, but it didn’t relieve my distress right away. In fact, I felt stuck for what seemed like a long time. (In reality it was only about an hour.) I resisted the urge to fall into old coping patterns of withdrawing and/or subtly punishing those around me. But I didn’t know exactly what to replace those patterns with.

I talked to my husband about what was going on. Of course, it helps that he’s a counselor and is aware that feelings aren’t right or wrong. He knows, as I do, that they are signposts to follow that can lead to the roots of our discomforts and compulsions. Eventually, I was able to shift into a place of compassion instead of blame. When this happened, I felt a sense of relief.

Understanding brought yet a few more tears.

October 4, 2005

Overheard in Aspen

sunshine2.jpg Woman on a cell phone: “So why’d you decide to get a BMW?”
Man on a cell phone: “You wouldn’t want to live with me. I’d rather have you not.”
CD playing at the toy store we were visiting just after being at the John Denver Sanctuary: John Denver singing “All Aboard,” train songs for kids.
Joe to Colleen at the toy store picking out a toy for his niece: “Do you like this?”
Colleen: “Yes, but I want it for me!”

Photo: “Sunshine on My Shoulder,” song lyrics inscribed on a boulder at the John Denver Memorial Sanctuary in Aspen Colorado.

October 3, 2005

Notes from Aspen

1. I shed a few tears of happiness at the weekend Aspen wedding I attended.
2. The next day I shed a few more for a different reason at the John Denver Sanctuary, a memorial tribute to the Colorado musician that sits by the Roaring Fork River and is made up of a variety of aesthetically arranged large boulders on which Denver’s lyrics are inscribed.
3. Although it was a non-denominational wedding, we danced the Hora at the reception and did some Irish step dancing in honor of the heritages of the bride and groom.
4. The only thing I missed at the John Denver Park was a boulder with “Far Out” inscribed on it, something I heard Denver say frequently back in the day on the Johnny Carson show.
5. It takes longer to boil water in high altitudes, which is hard for a tea lover like me.
6. The high altitude also effects nail polish remover. It dries before it can do what it was made for.
7. When I look up at the ski slope on Aspen Mountain, I find myself thinking about how Sonny Bono died.
8. Today when I looked up at the mountain, I saw 4 hang gliders floating above it.
9. I've decided that in Aspen the bluebird of happiness is the black winged magpie.
10. It’s expensive to shop here, even in the second-hand shops.

Post note: Apologies for the dark photos. They're posting darker than they look when I take them, and I'm not set up here at the library to lighten them, so I've decided that they're silhouettes (which works well to protect the innocents).

October 1, 2005

An Altitude Attitude

12000ft1.jpg Colleen to Joe: The thing I love about the tallest mountains is that they just stand there. No one can build anything on them.

Being above the tree line at 12,000 feet above sea level on top of Independence Pass in Colorado is the highest I’ve ever been. I would have thought I was on top of the world if it wasn’t for the fact that from there I could see other taller snow topped mountains. Fortunately, the rumors we had heard that the pass was closed due to snow weren’t true because driving it turned out to be the high point of our journey thus far, but because of the altitude, I could barely get out a complete sentence to express my amazement without gulping for air.

The pass is a switch backed scenic climb, dangerously narrow in places, that drops down into an Aspen forest and then into the city of Aspen. As far as peak travel experiences go, it’s right up there with driving the Ring of Kerry in Ireland. And once on the top, the view is as breathtaking as looking down into the Grand Canyon. “You don’t have to leave the country to be in a different country!” I exclaimed to Joe (pictured here) as scenes from the book “Heidi” replayed in my mind and the urge to sing “Climb Every Mountain” came upon me.