Jen Michalski, Managing and Founding Editor of JMWW Journal, has published my poem, “Edna Pontellier Needed a Bagpiper.” Edna Pontellier is the protagonist of the novel The Awakening. I don’t think you need to have read the book to understand the poem or Edna’s “fascination” with the water.
If you’re so inclined, comments may be left on the site.
In case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve experienced a bagpiper on the shore, as well as many other wonderful places. I used to think I was a reincarnated Scottish person because of my love of the pipes. But it might have started with ballet classes. My ballet teacher also taught Scottish Highland dancing (which I wanted to take SO BADLY but my mother said no), so I was used to hearing the pipes at the studio and at performances.
Strider Marcus Jones, Editor of Lothlorien Poetry Journal, has published five of my poems. Four are brand new, including one about my high school reunion in August, and one is from my first book Doll God. Two of the new poems are about living in Arizona.
I’m very grateful to Mark Danowsky, Editor of One Art, who has published a poem I wrote when I visited my mother in August. I traveled with my bad knees and my husband to see Mom and attend our high school reunion. We stayed in a guest room in the retirement community where Mom lives. And this is what happened the morning we were leaving. I hope you enjoy this narrative poem. It all happened just like this . . . .
Cristina M. R. Norcross, Founding Editor of Blue Heron Review has published one of my new poems in the new issue of the journal. The theme is Heart Source & Haven. In these dark, anxiety-ridden days, what a wonderful issue to read. My poem is about a magical place I found when I was a kid. It was in the woods across the narrow rural road near Caledonia, Michigan.
A Very Specific Opening in the Woods Near Caledonia
The road lilts through the thick woods on either side. There are no mailboxes to denote location, but that heart-shaped patch of lupines marks the entry if I remember to balance across the moss-covered log and bend down to pass under the sugar maple leaves. Follow the burbling creek down past the grasses nestling the tree trunks and saplings and when I’m lulled into the rhythm of the path, it appears in front of me—an open meadow sparkling with sunlight on the kaleidoscopic array of poppies, Sweet William, and phlox—hummingbirds and butterflies—even dragonflies—rising amidst the motes of pollen and seed, a bluebird’s chest pumping its song, and an alert squirrel scolding. At the top of my basket is the tablecloth—red and white checkered, natch—and I lay out the wine and chocolates, the ginger cake and oranges. Later, I drowse with my head on my doubled sweater. That’s when they arrive in their gossamer tutus and green tights, with their silvery voices. In the haze of my half-opened eyes, I watch them for memory’s sake. I will paint them later, as if they are a dream.
I wrote a tanka with Dia de Los Muertos as the kigo word for #TankaTuesday.
[Topic: First Frost]
Before winter’s here
on Dia de Los Muertos
we remember ones
we have lost to the Reaper
and celebrate life and love.
Although we are not in danger of a frost in Phoenix, the days and nights are cooler than they were. When I wake up in the morning, we are in the low 50s. I’ve been walking in the morning to take advantage of cooler air.
BONUS: to use Trick or Treat. Here is my lune:
Trick or treat, smell my
feet, give me
something good to eat.
(stolen from the childhood jingle)You can’t improve on a classic!
This has been such a distressing week with all the bad news. I had a personal joy though, small as it is. My story, “Incident at Shady Acres,” is First Runnerup for the Julia Peterkin Literary Award. This is a huge honor for me. Smiling . . . .
I know I’ve been writing for quite awhile, but really only started flash and micro fiction in earnest this February, so this really tickled me. I’ll keep keeping on!
Congrats to the winner Caridad Moro-Gronlier and the other finalists.
The stories will be published in the winter issue of South 85 Journal. A thank you to them and to the judges.
So no story to share yet, but I wanted to share my news!
When the eclipse occurred the other day, we had our usual clear blue skies in Phoenix, so the phenomenon was very clearly shadowed on the ground!
I’ve pursued family history research for probably fifteen years and have been reading Eilene Lyon’s fascinating blog Myricopia about her own research for a long time as well. Therefore, I had an inkling of what her new book was going to be about. But I had no idea how thoroughly researched and well-structured Fortune’s Frenzy would be. Nor did I realize how engaging a story she would create about the California gold rush.
Eilene’s perspective, like mine, is that the history of ordinary Americans is important and fascinating. When she discovered that some of her ancestors had been involved in the gold rush—and that their story was something brand new to our traditional historical vision of that event—it was a fabulous starting point for her project.
PLOT SUMMARY PROVIDED BY EILENE LYON
In this true story, Henry Z. Jenkins and a group of Indiana farmers use shady financing to make their way to California during the gold rush, causing devastating impacts to their families and their futures. Fortune’s Frenzy relates previously untold aspects of the gold rush: how the wealthy took advantage of gold fever by offering usurious loans, and how the cold calculus of transporting people to California became a deadly game for profit.
Eilene Lyon immersed herself in American history from an early age, when her parents took her to iconic sites such as Williamsburg, Philadelphia, and Gettysburg. She has been putting history into context through studying the lives of her ancestors for over twenty years. Her work has appeared in various history journals and can be found on her blog at Myricopia.com. She speaks on genealogy and family history writing at regional and national conferences. Eilene lives in Durango, Colorado, with her husband and husky-lab Sterling (named for a great-grandfather, naturally).
INTERVIEW OF EILENE LYON
Eilene has agreed to respond to interview questions about her beautiful book.
Your book tells the story of previously unknown ramifications of the gold rush as it affected countless Americans, but your story begins and ends with the story of Henry and Abby Jenkins. How are you related to them? Can you please describe these two characters to give prospective readers an idea of who these people were?
They are my 3rd great-grandparents (maternal). At this time there are no known images of Henry and Abby, so I can’t provide a physical description. Both of them have a family background in the Quaker tradition, having been born and reared in Philadelphia. Henry, though, was never a member of the Society of Friends, but his mother was for most her life. Both were well educated—Abby sometimes stepped up to teach her children and others. Henry and Abby had a strong religious faith, but they spent much of their marriage struggling to make ends meet, which added strain to their marriage. I get a sense they were very loving to each other and to their children.
Your book cover provides a startling look at one of the new ways of looking at the gold rush that you provide: a 19th century ship on a choppy sea! All this time I thought that men traveled from the eastern U.S. to California by land—on their horses or with buggies or covered wagons. But your book presents a completely new vision. Can you explain a little about why some people would have traveled on water—and do you have any statistics on how many traveled by water versus overland?
The sea route to California was a principal one from the very beginning, even though it had its own dangers. It actually cost less and involved fewer logistics than overland travel. People living on the east coast rounded up any vessel that would float (and some that didn’t) and went around the horn of South America.
Even in 1849, some went across Mexico from Vera Cruz, or across the isthmus at Panama or Nicaragua. Unfortunately, in the early years of the rush, there were few ships available on the Pacific coast of these countries. The isthmus route became favored by 1851, both going to and coming back from California. If you factor in the people who went there from other countries, the majority of people heading to the gold rush arrived by sea, landing in San Francisco. There aren’t any accurate statistics, though.
A detail about the cover image I’d like to note is the early steamship in the background. This painting was done in 1838, but these old ships were very much still in use during the gold rush years.
I was very taken by your writing style. You give beautiful descriptive details of time and place that can only have come from very intensive research. You also tie in what happens in the book with larger financial and political events that really made me feel that I was “there.” What types of sources did you use and how did you find them? And how did you find primary sources, such as letters?
Thank you! I spent eight years researching and writing this book. It began with a collection of Jenkins family letters that I’ve had in transcript form for decades, passed on to me by my grandmother. The problem with letters is that the people writing and reading them know the context, but from a 170-year remove, all of that is missing and has to be reconstructed. I was fortunate that I also found a Liestenfeltz family descendant who had a memoir written by another character in the book, and a Lowry descendant with another letter. I combed archives, partly using ArchiveGrid and the Online Archive of California. Some records I could obtain via email, but much of it was collected by visiting places such as the Huntington Library and Bancroft Library in California. I also visited the places in Indiana and Ohio where my characters lived.
There is a character in the book called Allen Makepeace. How would you describe him and how he made a living? Did he perform any vital role in life in those days or was he merely a parasite?
That’s an interesting characterization for Makepeace—parasite! He got into the merchandise business as a teen, bringing wagon-loads of goods from Ohio to Native Americans and early settlers in the undeveloped areas of eastern Indiana. He and his extended family were responsible for creating the town of Chesterfield and developing the Madison County seat of Anderson. Once he became wealthy, he served as community banker, because there were no banks at the time. He was not a benevolent lender, though.
I don’t think this is really a question, but I must comment that Fortune’s Frenzy made me imagine that the United States of this time period was really the beginning of the way things are run today by financial movers and shakers and by the legal system. People certainly seemed to take advantage of litigation. If you would like to comment on that, it would be wonderful, but not necessary.
It’s actually fair to say that the gold rush helped usher in modern financial practices. Companies like Adams Express and Wells Fargo got their start there and the need to be able to send money to families in eastern states drove the development of money transfer certificates and such. I actually find all the financial aspects of this story quite fascinating. It may seem tedious to others. For a time there were fears that all this gold coming from California would disrupt global finances and markets, causing runaway inflation. Those fears generally weren’t realized.
Eilene, nothing about your book was tedious! What motivated Indiana farmers to leave home and go to California? I imagine the draw of becoming rich overnight was huge, but why leave where they were?
You know the acronym FOMO (fear of missing out). Very real back then, too! Indiana in the mid-19th century was nothing like it is today. It was covered in dense, swampy forests. Clearing and draining it to create farms was incredibly difficult, back-breaking work. The pioneer farmers were actually better equipped physically to endure the rigors of mining than the doctors, lawyers, and shopkeepers—once they figured out what to look for and how to extract the gold.
What is the most important idea(s) or feeling(s) you would like your readers to come away with after finishing Fortune’s Frenzy?
In one sense, I wanted this work to stand as a valuable piece of historical research. But I did not want it to read like an academic book. I wanted to create a story that anyone could enjoy reading. Hopefully I have managed to meet both of those goals.
I’ve read a lot of gold rush literature—fiction and nonfiction—in the course of researching the book. I think it’s fair to say that even scholars of the era will find new information that will be surprising.
It isn’t important that this is a story about my ancestors and their network, per se. I hope everyone will get a sense that their family history is important. Their ancestors lived through historic events and even created them. History is not just about famous people, politicians, wars, etc. I think the everyday life events in Indiana, as depicted in this book, are fascinating, too.
I have a micro up at Scribes *MICRO* Fiction, thanks to Managing Editor Edward Ahern . It’s a surreal drabble (100 words). This link is for the whole issue, which is full of fun stories and poem. https://www.fairfieldscribes.com/issue-32.html/ My story is about 3/4 through the issue–if it were in pages it would be page 10 out of 13.
I will also post a screenshot here, but you should really check out the whole issue because it’s chockful of goodies.
My mother gave me my baby book which I have started to go through. I found a photo in it that I have never seen of the person who was my favorite when I was a kid: my maternal grandmother. In this image I am 20 months old. I also read in the book that for my first week of life Grandma and her other daughter, my sweet Aunt Alice, stayed with my parents and helped take care of me. She was the best grandmother anyone could ever have. The grandmother poems in Rooted and Winged are about her.
For months now I have been writing this post in my mind. The reason is that the post is meant to help clarify my thinking about a matter.
I grew up in an era where people still believed that it was important to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and to “put a good face on.” I also like to be seen as strong or even tough. Most importantly, there are always people worse off than ourselves. Some people have such horrible “roads to hoe” in life. It makes me cry to think of what some people go through.
Further down there is going to be a “but.”
Without boring you with too many details, underneath a lifetime of many and varied illnesses, I have a few chronic conditions that are a bit extraordinary. One of these is primary congenital lymphedema, particularly in the lower extremities. It’s what used to be known as elephantiasis.
Additionally, I have a migraine disorder that for the last 25 years has not (for the most part) been headaches, but a sudden and extreme set of symptoms. Because the symptoms didn’t fit neatly into a specific type of migraine, I was told they were “complicated migraines.” Most recently, the diagnosis is that I have genes for more than one rare type of migraine—and that they work together to give me symptoms of more than one disorder. Most likely these are vestibular and hemiplegic.
An extra issue in the mix, and I’ve written about this before, doctors at Mayo Clinic discovered that I had a very rare tumor in my right foot (rare meaning at that time medical staff couldn’t find any medical literature of a tumor in that particular bone). This was a nightmare that went on for 1 1/2 years and was complicated by my lymphedema. There were only two surgeons in the United States that Mayo considered competent to do surgery on this tumor, and it was performed by the AMAZING Dr. Eckhart at UCLA orthopedic hospital (RIP to a wonderful person and doctor). Five years after the surgery, he told me he never thought the surgery would work but he watched over me so carefully. Since the surgery I am not allowed to run, jump, hike, or do most aerobic activities.
I write about these details to give a little context. Back to putting a good face on and all that. Because I am a writer and keep up with current events in the writing world, I am more aware of new ways of thinking about things than I might be if I weren’t writing and especially reading new work. My view of myself that I have had my whole life has been as a blessed person–certainly privileged in many ways–and that I needed to stay tough and “power through” everything and then set it aside. Another way of putting it is to say burying it down deep. Perhaps what best fits is that I never made space for my health issues. I let everything else in my life intrude and take over the space they needed.
But (I told you there would be a but!) reading young writers, I am beginning to change my view of myself. I am disabled. Any time I go out I must have a hat and sunglasses with me for lighting situations (migraine trigger). I can’t go to concerts or sports games because of flashing lights. I can’t travel alone because it’s become too dangerous with the migraines which occur in a moment and are completely incapacitating. I must bring my lymphedema pump with me to travel–as well as lots of other things for the condition, and it takes a lot of time and energy every day. Most importantly, lymphedema affects much of the rest of my health, and as I age (arthritis and other deteriorations, for instance) it will become more and more of a problem.
So, while I have no ridiculous illusions that my situation is comparable to the tragic illnesses of so many others, I am finally realizing that disability has nothing to do with comparison between one person and another. And it isn’t negative or counter-productive for me to finally understand that it’s ok to admit that I am disabled, that it’s just a useful way to communicate with others. If people don’t realize that I am disabled, how can they be supportive?
I wish I had had this epiphany years ago when my son was still young. He has an exceedingly rare disorder that doctors misdiagnosed for decades. It’s so rare that in the NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders) list it is lumped in with other disorders and diseases instead of being listed separately. At the most, only a couple thousand people in the U.S. have his disorder. The reason it’s important to note the rareness is because the less others know about your disability, the less helpful they are–even if they want to be!
You see where I am going with this? If I had been better about making space for my disabilities, it might have been easier for my son with his own situation. It’s hard enough when people see you from the outside and say, “Oh, it’s not such a big deal,” with absolutely NO understanding of what it’s like to live that life. So, while the gardener and I always respected the importance of his disorder (which I first noticed when he was nine months old, and the pediatrician practically laughed at me), we didn’t teach him to make space.
Now I see everything differently.
Have you ever had a big shift in how you viewed yourself?
OK, ending on something a little lighter. Perry is very unhappy about the cane I’ve been using since I injured my knee more fully when I got home from Michigan. Yesterday, I was walking in the living room, and Perry came up from behind and crashed into the cane, forcing me down on the bad knee. Yes, it hurt like heck, but it was funny, too, because what cat does something like that? A dog might do that if he’s frustrated enough. But Perry was just being Perry! And then we had the hugging session afterwards where he apologized to me! Sweetest, funniest little goober.
I maybe have shared when my poem “Waterland” was first published by Open: Journal of Arts and Letters. Then it became part of my new full-length collection Rooted and Winged. Today I’m really tickled that editor Christine Klocek-Lim has published it in Autumn Sky Poetry Daily.She expresses her thoughts about the poem at the end. I’m grateful for her enthusiasm for the poem.