Poem Up at MockingHeart Review

Editor-in-Chief Tyler Robert Sheldon has published my poem “When I’m in Charge” at MockingHeart Review.

This poem was written before the pandemic, but it certainly fits this traumatic period of time.

Have you ever wished that you were in charge?

WHEN I’M IN CHARGE

Emperor’s New Clothes monument in OdenseВладимир Шеляпин / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

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Mamas in the Yard

It’s been five years since the hummingbird mama grew two babies to adulthood in a nest right outside my back door–and then a few weeks later nurtured a second nest of babies! I was lucky enough to capture on video a baby leaving the nest in flight for its very first time.

Now it’s May once again, and we have two hummingbird nests in the yard! These are in the front yard–one in an oleander tree and the other in a wind mobile.

See her nest right there in the middle of the photo?

Look for the mama in the next photo! It’s a little harder haha.

She looks like she’s trying to blend right in. Here she and the nest are from a different angle.

Right underneath the mobile are a few flats of flowers that we have not yet planted. She keeps going to them for nectar as if we set them there for her babies.

Maybe these mamas are the babies of the ones I saw fly off into their lives!

Cat news: Perry is so stinken smart. It’s become clear that he absolutely knows what “Hold on” means and is willing to do it every time I say it. If we are walking somewhere in the house (he follows me), and I have to turn back for something, I say, “Hold on.” He then sits right where he is and waits for me to come back and then picks up following me again! If I were so inclined I think our boy might be trainable for Youtube.

One last note: I hope these mama hummingbirds and my cute boy Perry give you a little glimpse of hope after a tragic and sad week. Here is Emily Dickinson on the subject of hope:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

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A Walk in the Neighborhood, Arizona Style

What do I see and hear and smell on a walk near my house?

From the moment I step outside I smell flower fragrance. So I take a big sniff and keep walking. I hear songbirds singing.

Next I see the seedpods. Everywhere. Here are just a few.

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Then I see the pretty Mexican bird of paradise plant.  See how fiery and unique the blossoms are!

I come upon flowering saguaros.

 

Closer.

The sounds I hear are silence, then a rush of cars, then this: babies in their nest–inside a saguaro.

Apparently some baby birds are very noisy when being fed.

On the writing front, I wrote a little essay this weekend. We’ll see what happens with it. Best part: #amwriting

Make it a good week if you can figure out a way!

Leaving you with a wild baby in my yard. This is a baby kingsnake.  They are not only harmless to humans, but they kill rattlesnakes. We have been nurturing a family of kingsnakes ever since we moved here. Isn’t he cute?!

 

 

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Growing Things

On Friday we planted new pentas, vincas, coleus, and marigolds. Daughter and her fiance helped MUCH. We left a lot of the old flowers, although they were a bit leggy, mainly because of the cost and also because we have been so busy that we didn’t have time to do more.

When the pandemic began, I was eager to be a pioneer woman and even froze eggs and lemons in case we had a shortage. Now I am very ragged around the edges, having been overworked by all the dealings with the government and business-in-the-time-of-coronavirus. I am used to always being busy, usually thrive on it, and yet I will say that I am too exhausted at this point. And I don’t see a letup. Plus, when I get this tired, my legs and feet swell miserable (from my primary lymphedema). That aggravates my “hip-leg.” I have a painful condition with my left leg up near the groin that I refer to as my hip-leg. It feels like a twisting nerve and is particularly and suddenly painful when I put my foot down on the ground. The swelling makes it worse. And the exhaustion and work-work-work makes it worser yet.

But I don’t have the virus. And neither does my family. And my kitties are a lot of work, but so cute. And I have new flowers. So there you go.

We also have lizards galore this year. And the quail couple with their single file of bobbing babies. You see, I can keep finding cool stuff to distract myself!

My friend who wrote this very popular essay years ago (Lake Erie) teaches creative writing to seniors. Because of the pandemic, her classes now are on Zoom, and my mom is taking one! I am so happy she is doing so because it’s good for her to interact with others, although it’s on phone Zoom (no video) and not in person. Also, she is a reporter for the community newspaper (used to be an editor for it), but with the pandemic she can’t interview people in person. My mother’s community has a big apartment complex, a nursing home, an assisted living, a rehab facility, and garden homes (duplexes). She lives in a garden home, so she has more space and more freedom than if she lived in one of the other buildings.

I call my mother regularly, but it’s hard to find new things to talk about when you’re not out doing new stuff! And she’s not going to doctors or seeing friends, so she doesn’t have that to talk about. She does read my genealogy blog The Family Kalamazoo, so that makes her happy because I am almost always yapping about her family. Most recently I’ve been working on my 3x great-grandfather who was a “prosperous celery farmer” (according to his obit) in Kalamazoo. I had no idea when I was growing up there that my ancestor was one of the farmers who raised Kalamazoo’s “famous” crop. The thing that interested me most about him was discovering that as a widower he married and divorced a woman after he immigrated to the U.S. It almost looks like he married her so she would help raise his six children. I wonder what he discovered he didn’t like. How I would love to see the divorce papers! I have all kinds of fictional scenarios popping up in my head.

When I was growing up, my dad planted a plum tree in our backyard in Michigan. He used to take pix of us next to the tree, watching the tree and us kids growing, I guess. After my father passed away five years ago (last Thursday), my mom had a plum tree planted on the edge of the woods behind her house at the senior complex.

This weekend I found out I got the Volunteer of the Month award for April at the shelter. Yes, well, so many of the other volunteers couldn’t do their jobs because the shelter has been closed to volunteers for the pandemic. However, my work increased because I make the adoption calls (more adoptions!) and do data entry for those. I also took on the shelter’s Twitter account, which is a challenge right now because just as soon as I get info on a new dog it gets adopted :)! The reason this is occurring is in part because people are stepping up to adopt during this period. But it is also for another reason. Our shelter is a no-kill that functions largely by rescuing e-list dogs from the county kill shelter. (The cats seem to magically appear at our shelter, by the way). Our shelter is only bringing in a limited number of animals because without volunteers, the staff can only take care of just so many hungry mouths.

Take care of yourselves, peeps. If you have Instagram, be sure to check out Bobthewritingcat! That big-hearted curmudgeon makes me happy and teary. As Bob always says, go wash your hands!!!

 

 

 

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An Unintended Visitor


Last Tuesday, a hawk showed up on my patio. It was directly below a hanging plant, a long drapey succulent. Hidden underneath the thick spongy leaves was a dove nest with two babies. The gardener and I assumed the worst, and when we saw one little head moving up there, thought the hawk had killed the sibling and was hanging around to get the other.

I went inside and took this closeup through the window. I banged on the window to get the hawk to leave, but it just sat there.

Before too long I began to worry that it was abnormal for a hawk to just sit there on the ground without leaving.

I put in a call to the local wildlife rescue that specializes in birds. I have brought them quail chicks, doves, and pigeons in the past. But nobody called me back. I made some other calls and posted on next-door app. I was finally able to talk to a second wildlife rescue. They said to let the bird sit there overnight because it might have a concussion. If the bird was still there in the morning I was supposed to call them back. A concussion made sense because there was a window right by the plant with the dove nest.

While they first assumed it was a juvenile bird that was afraid to fly, one of my daughter’s best friends volunteers with raptors in Tucson. I showed her photos and she said it was an adult red-tailed hawk. That was helpful information because the rescue paid attention when I told them that it was an adult bird, so that the lack of flying was abnormal.

Next morning the bird was still on the patio, but in a different spot, and looking more bedraggled. About a half an hour after I got up, the bird stepped into the pan of water I had put out for it the night before and just stood there cooling its feet.


Through a series of events it ended up that the first rescue group that I called sent a volunteer to capture the hawk.

The hawk actually escaped twice after the events of the video, but was quickly recaptured each time. That afternoon, I wrote a poem about the hawk, making it a female.

The next day, the volunteer texted me and said that the hawk turned out to be a female (but I already knew that!). She wanted us to look for a nest. The thought of starving baby hawks motivated the gardener to search our neighborhood and me to post on next-door app asking people to look for hawk nests. We found two, but not hers so perhaps she didn’t have a nest after all. The volunteer said that if there wasn’t a nest close by it’s doubtful that she had one because she would have done anything to get to the nest, even if she couldn’t fly. She would have walked!

You might wonder how she’s doing. I sure do, but they don’t let people know. That is frustrating, but I’m satisfied I did what I could for her. What a magnificent bird. An interesting note: I read up on red-tailed hawks, of course, and discovered that they generally don’t go after cats and dogs, although they are huge and their wing spans can be six feet.

By the way, both dove babies are still alive!

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Another Poem Up at Zingara Poetry Review

“Finally Going to Tell You about the Staircase Ghost” was published today by editor Lisa M. Hase-Jackson at Zingara Poetry Review.  This poem relates a couple of the “super”natural experiences I have had.

As befitting Mother’s Day, one of them occurred when I was a new mom. The other is a ghost story.

Finally Going to Tell You about the Staircase Ghost

 

I closed comments over here, but comments are allowed at Zingara.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL THE MOTHERS OUT THERE–AND THEIR CHILDREN

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Two Poems Up at Superstition Review

Superstition Review is a literary journal from Arizona State University, and I am so tickled that they published two of my poems. Also, they posted an audio clip of my reading of both poems. Follow this link:

TWO POEMS BY LUANNE CASTLE

So you don’t even have to read them yourself, just put up your feet and listen for two minutes.

The first poem is called “One of Her Parents was a Float.” It’s a poem inspired by adoption. Until the poem I published with Plath Poetry Project a few months ago and this one I hadn’t written an adoption poem in a long time. I feel really pleased with the originality of this way of looking at the subject.

The second poem was inspired by seeing a photo online of a little girl named Minnie Rae PREGNANT in 1871 San Francisco.

In those days, there weren’t any services to help girls like this. Charity and all the baggage that came with it was all anyone could hope for. What baggage? Demands about doctrine, religion, and lifestyle, all the while not providing enough to live on.

But if you think nothing like this has happened in a long time, I’ll give you an anecdote from the late 70s. That is a long time ago now, but it has teemed in my head since then. The gardener’s cousin was married to a wonderful man who taught in an inner city school in a very poor area of NYC. One of his students was 8 years old and pregnant. He struggled with how to deal with the horrors he faced every day in the classroom.

Is stuff like this still going on today? Let me know what you think!

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More Scrapping Scraps

I finished another story scrap for my SCRAPS scrapbook–finally.

As a reminder this is the first post. Click the photo to read it.

 

When I was a preteen, my grandmother sewed me shorts sets from cotton blend prints. She made the tops and shorts out of the same material, but the tailoring was fairly sophisticated, so the end product had more in common with a summer dress than a romper. I don’t know where she got the idea from or if it was in style in the sixties. At least one fabric was made into matching mother-daughter shorts sets for Mom and me.

 

But my favorite set was in a fabric that I found very cheering. Balloons in varying shades of spring greens, both solids and prints, float on a white field. The shorts were mid-thigh, and the top had a fairly high neckline. Because Grandma made it for me, the outfit fit perfectly. It was comfortable, and I felt good wearing it.

 

Not that I didn’t love to wear my denim shorts and short-sleeved sweatshirt. But Grandma’s short sets were lighter weight than my other play clothes and much more convenient than dresses.

In this photo I am posing alone–to see the one with my mother look at the finished pages at the bottom of the post.

In our old photos, I found myself wearing the balloon set on two different dates. The summer photo came first. It was on the occasion of our trip to Canada to attend Expo 67. In fact, in a scrapbook, Mom labeled the picture, “Mother and daughter enjoying a rest.” A body of water is behind us. Below that photo, my mother had pasted another photo and labeled it, “Sawmill at Upper Canada Village.”  There is another image of just me in the same spot but without my mother (the one above). From examining the few photographs I could find online, I do think these photos of me are also from Upper Canada Village.

 

In the photos, I am wearing the shorts set, with its matching triangle headscarf tied at the nape of my neck. I also wear a blue ¾ length sleeve cardigan that Grandma knitted for me. On my feet are navy blue Keds-type shoes.

 

I’ve written before about our Expo 67 visit, but we also went to other tourist sites in Canada during our trip. Upper Canada Village was one of the places we visited. Niagara Falls was another.

 

My grandmother must have made this outfit for me in the spring of 1967 when I was finishing up elementary school (6th grade). I started junior high in September.

The other photo revives vivid memories. It was taken 31 October 1967, Halloween, probably around 6 PM. I remember my mother posing me in front of the living room fireplace. I have very few memories of actual picture taking, so this is very special to my heart.

I am wearing a heavenly sheer green silk flapper dress that had been owned by my grandfather’s cousin Therese Remine. It was heavily beaded, and over time, the silk had weakened, and the beads were too heavy for the thin fibers. By the time I got home that night, the dress had already begun to rip. You might wonder why my mother would allow me to ruin an expensive vintage dress by wearing it one night for Halloween. I wonder that myself, but my mother’s value system is limited. To sum it up: she didn’t have any interest in the dress, so she didn’t care what I did with it.

 

Because the dress was sheer, I had to choose clothes to wear underneath, and the only thing that seemed to my 12-year-old mind to “go” was the balloon shorts set because both outfits were green.  I made myself a flapper headband to match and carried a handbag that must have belonged to Therese, although I am not positive about that. You see, I used to collect old discarded fancy wear and had quite a collection from a few women.

 

It had been my mother’s idea to make a headband. I don’t know how much I knew about the 1920s, and I probably needed her suggestion to visualize the whole outfit. I have mulled over the question: where did I first learn about flappers with their bobbed hair and short skirts? Their narrow flat outlines so like my own. I don’t remember what movies or books might have shaped whatever image I had by age twelve.

 

An essential part of my costume that night was the large diamond-shaped earrings. I’m not sure where those dangly earrings came from. I hope I didn’t lift them from the dime store at the plaza.

 

While I stood in the middle of our living room, smiling into the camera, my mother pulled her face out from behind the camera and pinned me with her gaze. “This will be your last year trick-or-treating. You’re getting too old.” So that was that. I felt compelled to enjoy myself this one last time.

 

The living room accessories in the photo were accumulated from various places, generally from other people. The big brass candlesticks were heavy. The painting was not a copy, but an inexpensive original painting. The Don Quixote figures had been displayed at a home décor shop. My father had purchased an old house on Westnedge on a land contract and rented it to an interior decorator who opened the shop. When she went out of business, she gave my father some small furnishings in lieu of back rent. That was how we ended up with the large wood fork and spoon that hung on our kitchen wall for years (yes, like in Marie’s kitchen on  Everybody Loves Raymond).

 

I look so young in these photos, and yet poised on the brink of burgeoning womanhood. I remember how I felt wearing that flapper dress. The twenties was my era, and I felt as if I belonged.

 

As my photograph was snapped, the bell rang. My friends had arrived so we could begin the house-to-house process. That’s when I realized I had to wear my wool coat over my costume. Or rather, my mother informed me I had to.

 

We trudged from front door to front door, but the knowledge that this was my “last time” weighed on my mind. My fingers grew chilled from the cold that had arrived early to Michigan. That’s where this memory ends.

 

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Reporting In, Part 3

I want to reach out and say Hi and hear back about how everyone is doing. I really want to know how readers are faring in the midst of the pandemic.

There is such a wide variety of how the pandemic is affecting Americans. I’m blessed that so far Arizona is not overrun with Covid-19 cases, that my family and I seem well, that the kitties seem well, and that we have food and shelter and a sunny sky.

I might get to see my granddog Riley today or tomorrow if things go well and her Mom and Dad stay far enough away from me. Isn’t she cute in her University of Oklahoma jersey?

Riley’s big sister Isabella Rose is a proud Sooner, but not a proud Tshirt wearer.

There might be a shortage of soda, beer, and seltzer coming our way. I guess we can handle that. There is always wine and vodka. And I have a soda machine for my soda water.

But the stories I’ve heard that others are enduring upset me. It’s impossible to push aside their pain and not absorb it as my own. It’s also upsetting to see that the NYC subways are still packed with people who have to go to work that way. They don’t have the luxury of holing up in their apartments and waiting it out.

We all have different coping methods. Praying is always a good one. So is self-care, like meditation, yoga, essential oils, healthy food, and kitty love. Or doggie love.

I like to keep my sense of humor as much as I can because it really does help. It boosts the immune system. But sometimes my sense of humor fails me.

We focus on the mundane tasks, as well as the tasks we have to learn to do ourselves.

On Saturday I used the hair color kit my stylist made for me and covered my roots. Well, most of my roots. Or if not most, enough . . . because I have nowhere to go anyway. My hair is very very resistant to color. It always has been. Therefore, it takes superwoman efforts to cover the gray. Over time, stylists have figured out that my hair has to be covered twice, with cap and dryer each time. Trying to just keep the color on longer and only doing it once does not work. Nobody can figure out why my hair is like this. It might be hormonal, but in what way? Anyway, I don’t have a dryer, so couldn’t do that part. And after I colored it once and showered to remove the Redken, I figured, screw it–this is good enough for now. So there are some patches of gray left. Who cares?

I had considered buying a box at Walgreens, but my daughter and daughter-in-law were horrified that I would ruin my hair. I guess they would have been shocked at the grad school years when the gardener used to color my hair with a box of Clairol. His method was not the “comb and part neatly” one used by stylists. His method was a chaotic attack from all angles that tangled my hair beyond combing. If I survived that, I can survive these gray patches.

Lots of my friends have gone gray, either over time or suddenly when they stopped coloring their hair within the last few years. But I doubt I will do so as I’m not fond of how pasty I look with “ash tones.”

Yesterday I did a supermarket pickup. They have it streamlined so I don’t have to sign anything and the employees are not allowed to accept tips. The young man put the bags in the back of my vehicle, and I just sat in my car. Of course, when I got home I exhausted myself sanitizing everything. I had ordered 3 kinds of jelly beans in the hopes that there would be at least one bag for the gardener (I hate jelly beans, by the way). He was not in luck. But I did score a big bag of russet potatoes, so I have real potatoes for the first time since before we went to Costa Rica mid-March. Last night I made latkes!!!

One smaller thing that has been weighing on my mind in the midst of all the big worries is my daughter’s wedding. She has it planned for March 2021 here in Phoenix. She’s continuing to plan it. The guest list will be about 95% out-of-towners, from New Jersey, New York, California, etc. I think one of the reasons this stresses me so much is that it forces us to look eleven months ahead and predict the relationship we will have with the virus at that point.

On another note, writing is a good focus for me, but I have not been able to do too much writing. Happily, I’ve had a lot of publications coming out this spring. Still at least four more journals before summer. I guess this year publications, rather than new poems, are my contributions to National Poetry Month.

So tell me about you. 

 

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Poem Up at Zingara Poetry Review

Editor Lisa M. Hase-Jackson has published my poem “Maybe It was Spring” at Zingara Poetry Review. This poem is very different from the one also published a few hours ago at North of Oxford. That one is a dark story, a poem that reveals the real Medusa and what happened to her. You can find “Medusa’s #Metoo” in my previous post.

But “Maybe It was Spring” is a “risen” poem. It’s about all the possibilities of rebirth, renewal, and the hope of a miracle. It’s also a true story.

Click the image below to get to “Maybe It was Spring”:

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