Dandelions and Other Foreigners

A friend said to Hodja Nasruddin, “Look at all these dandelions!  I’ve tried pulling them, poisoning them, starving them, digging them out by the root.  Nothing works.  I am at my wit’s end!”

“That’s a shame,” said the Hodja. “They are not a problem for me.”

“Really?  Please tell me your secret, my friend!”

“It is very simple,” said Nasruddin.  “I have learned to love them.”

Dandelions are native to Eurasia, but have traveled all over this world.   In France they were called “Dent de Lion,” or “Lion’s Tooth,” because of their toothed leaves. In England they were, “Piss-a-Beds,” for their diuretic properties.  In Germany, Russia, and Italy they are “blowing flowers.”  In Catalan, Poland, Denmark, and Lithuania they are  “milk flowers,”  “milkpots,” and “sow’s milk,” after the flower stem’s milky sap.  In Finland, Estonia, and Croatia, they are “butter flowers.”  In China, they are “flower that grows in public spaces by the riverside,”  while in Portugal, they are called, “your dad is bald,” after a game the children play with them.

A weed is  a weed only if it is unwanted.  These immigrants have been used by humans for food, winemaking, herbs, and medicine for all of our recorded history.  Their roots are roasted for a chicory-like hot drink.  They are brimming with vitamins, and they enrich the soil.

They were only introduced to North America by the first European settlers.  Foreign? Yes. But think of all the good things they have brought with them.  Think of summertime without their cheerful faces.  Most of all, think of all the wishes that have come true since they have found a home here.

Click here for other interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: An Unusual Point of View

Here is a link to check out other interpretations of the Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign.

All words and images copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck.


No Such Thing As An Odd Couple

Couples come in all shapes and sizes.  They always have, since the beginning of time.


Life is short, and often cruel.  Finding true love, or even a true friend is not just a comfort.

It’s a miracle.

But I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. True love happens.

It is easy to recognize when you see it.


..in all its many forms…

..is a gift to us all.   It fills the world with light.

Let it shine!

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck 2012

Click here for more interpretations of the Weekly Photo Challenge: Partners.

For more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Friendship.

Turkey, a Land of Light and Shadow

Turkey is a land of contrasts–modern and ancient, Eastern and Western, light and shadow.

Everywhere we went, people welcomed us warmly.

We saw ancient churches and mosques, and magnificent palaces.

Cappadocia, in Central Turkey, was the home of the Hittites, nearly two thousand years B.C.E.

Uncle Mustafa guided us through an underground city there.  The ancient Hittites had carved eight levels of tunnels in the soft volcanic rock.

The city served as a shelter in case of attack, with stores of food and water to feed 5,000 people for three months.

Then we saw Cappadocia from above, in a hot air balloon…

We swam in the Mediterranean off the coast near Antalya, and ate fish caught from the back of the boat for lunch.

Near Konya we visited Tinaztepe Magaralari, a cave with underground lakes.

At Hieropolis, we soaked our feet in the hot springs where Cleopatra and Marc Antony honeymooned.

In Istanbul we visited the Byzantine Cistern, built by Emperor Justinius in the 6th century.  It’s a huge underground stone forest built with recycled Roman columns.  It was the size of two football fields, and held 57 million gallons of water.

A cruise on the Bosphorus took us past this fortress.

The Bosphorus divides Istanbul, a city of 17 million.  One side is in Eurupe, and the other in Asia.  This bridge joins one continent to the other.

Kusadasi was a lovely harbor town, where we could watch the sun set from our balcony each evening.

They say the beaches of Gallipoli are haunted by ghosts from the disastrous war between the British and the Turks in 1915.  Many New Zealanders and Australians were called in to fight for the British.  Nearly everyone we met there was either a Kiwi or an Aussie.

After a tragic waste of human life on both sides, the British and their allies withdrew.  Eli and I visited British and Turkish cemeteries; both were heartbreaking.  A few years ago, one of the few survivors of the 57th Turkish Battalion returned to the site at the age of 108, with his great granddaughter.  This statue commemorates their visit.

I don’t know when I will see the sun set over Turkey again, but I am already looking forward to the day.

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette.

Sky Candy

Most of my adventures are the gentle sort.  I won’t be climbing Mt. Everest, or even Mt. Rainier in my lifetime.  I have zero interest in bungy jumping, roller coasters, or even in riding the London Eye.  And I always said they’d have to pay me to get me into a hot air balloon.

So how did I find myself in Turkey, in the wee hours of the morning, on my way to my very first hot air balloon ride?  My son Eli really wanted to go, and as I get older, I find myself experiencing more “What the heck!” moments.   At 5:30AM, I got into a van with sixteen other people.  The vehicle was lit by an eerie red light, as if we were about to be launched into some weird sci-fi adventure.

We arrived at dawn, with the balloons still being filled with hot air generated by propane gas.

It was hard not to imagine them as living creatures, struggling awkwardly to their feet like a camel.

I was privately terrified, but climbed into the basket along with Eli and the others.

Our captain’s name was Mustafa.  Mustafa said he’d had to go to the US to get his training, and he’d been doing this for eight years.  He had shiny gold epaulets on the shoulders of his white uniform, so I listened carefully when he told us there were only two rules.  The first was to remain in the basket at all times.

The second was what we should do upon landing.  We were to grab the rope handles on the inside of the basket, hold tight, and lean away from the ground when the basket went scudding across the landing spot.   I’d always envisioned balloons at the mercy of the wind, floating above a flat landscape, coming down wherever the wind took them, retrieved by trucks that followed behind like tornado chasers.   But we were in Cappodocia, a land of many valleys, and strange rock formations.

Where would we even find a flat place to land?

The beast roared, and I felt its hot breath upon my neck.  The captain loosened the reins…

…and we were airborne.

The sky brightened, and we saw balloons rising everywhere, like at a party or a parade, where scores of  balloons are released at once.

 Slowly, gracefully, we glided on the air currents.

I wasn’t at all afraid.  I sensed only calm and wonder. The landing might be rough, but I was living in the moment, taking in the colors…

… and the scenery.

I watched other balloons glide above us…

…or below.

They were like gentle ghosts…I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better….

…the sun rose in a burst of color and light.

The valley was flooded with a golden warmth…

…and the windows in the village below glistened like diamonds.


When it was time to land, I watched as Mustafa used bursts of hot air to lift the balloon over each new ridge.  Once he radioed another pilot for his visual take on our position in relation to a particular outcrop.  The pilot assured him that we could clear it.  At first I was disconcerted, but I do the same when I am parallel parking in a tight spot.  “Eli, stick your head out the window and tell me if I can get past that car’s fender.”

The wind was not cooperating, and our hour in the air stretched out to an hour and a half as Mustafa maneuvered the stubborn creature, but he clearly knew what he was doing.  We came to a plateau, where I recognized our crew of balloon chasers, and prepared for impact.

The captain lowered a long sturdy rope, and used what he called his “three horse power” landing gear, his three crewmen to haul the balloon while Mustafa kept us just high enough off the ground for them to maneuver the basket toward the truck.

It was skillfully and artfully done, a perfect landing, directly onto the trailer. After disembarkingwe found a surprise awaiting us. The breakfast of champions!

This experience was life-changing for me, as if a switch inside me turned on to the world’s possibilities and opportunities.

I probably won’t climb Mt. Everest in my lifetime, but I might yet take a ride on the London Eye.

Guest Post: The Importance of Community By Laura Stanfill

Hi friends,

It is my pleasure to welcome author Laura Stanfill as my guest on Writing Between the Lines.  I was delighted to discover Laura through her blog, which she uses to inform and inspire our global writing community.  As bloggers, this is a community that you all belong to.  But Laura’s message goes deeper than that.  Today she is addressing The Importance of Community.  She will also tell us about her newest book, Brave on the Page.  How can any writer not love a book with that title!  Check out her website, and better yet, since today is her release day, check out her new book!



The Importance of Community

By Laura Stanfill

Creative people feed off other people’s creative energy. Or at least I do. Visiting a museum will get me thinking about green, a slash of color across the canvas of my mind, and days later, I will write a paragraph about a girl leaving a room, and that slash of color will become a glimpse of her skirt as she shuts the door on my protagonist, a young boy lying in bed, afraid he’s dying because that glimpse of skirt set his heart beating way too fast.

My relationship to other writers is more direct, more immediate. Back when I was in my twenties, I used to joke about being the “writer in the corner” at parties, or in other environments when I felt different from the people around me.

“Don’t mind me, I’m a writer.” That was a joke I told back then, but it was also a comfort to be able to cite a reason for not fitting in with the suit-wearing political types in the D.C. metro area.

And then, in 2001, I moved to Portland, Oregon, and met my writing kinsfolk. Our tribe, Liz Prato terms it in her interview, which is included in my new book, Brave on the Page: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life. Liz writes beautifully about how, when in the throes of story-making, we think about our characters all the time. People who don’t exist suddenly take up as much brain-space, or more, than what we’re actually doing in the real world.

 Harold Johnson, whose poem “When I Am in My Write Mind” is part of Brave on the Page, and Laura Stanfill, the editor of the collection, visit during a mid-August writing party. Photo courtesy of Brian Biggs, another Pinewood Table writer.

“When you’re doing something that crazy—and undervalued, in a culture obsessed with poorly behaved celebrities—you need a tribe,” Liz writes. “We keep each other sane, and we give each other a hand whenever we can.”

My writing community—my tribe—is centered around the Pinewood Table, a seminar-like writing group taught by Stevan Allred and Joanna Rose. I met them soon after moving to Portland, and after the initial nerves wore off, I knew I had found my home. I loved sitting around a table for four hours a week, reading my own work aloud and listening to others’ voices dip into quiet or grow fast in anticipation of sharing a certain hard-earned passage. Talking about the finer points of the craft. Using language in our own particular ways, and learning how to use it better by studying each other’s words on the page. On those afternoons, several years of them, I grew as a writer. I grew as a person. And—five or ten pages at a time—I grew two complete novels.

Martha Ragland, Julia Stoops, Jackie Shannon Hollis and Laura Stanfill attended a women’s writing retreat in May 2011. Flash essays by Martha, Jackie and Laura are included in Brave on the Page, and Julia is featured as an interview subject.

I was no longer the writer in the corner. I was the writer at the table. The Pinewood Table. And my writer-friends didn’t just know me by my appearance or my career or what I liked to eat for lunch. They knew the people I carried around in my head. The ones I thought about when doing dishes or driving to the community I covered as the editor of a small-town newspaper.

 Brian Biggs listens to the discussion during the second annual summer potluck. 

This summer, when I came up with the idea of publishing a book of the Seven Questions interviews I post on my blog, laurastanfill.wordpress.com, it didn’t take me long to realize I wanted to feature Oregon authors. I asked everyone I could think of, not just my Pinewood Table brother and sister writers, and the result is a mix of styles, genres and backgrounds, from bestselling narrative nonfiction author Lauren Kessler to Gregg Townsley, who just started writing westerns because, in the last few years, as an ex-pastor and martial arts instructor, he fell in love with reading fiction.

Brave on the Page, which is being released on Monday, October 8,features fifteen interviews and twenty-seven flash essays about who, what, when, where, why and how we write. The collection is a 200-page meditation on craft and community. I am truly inspired by every heartfelt word, and am so honored that these amazingly creative people shared their time and talents with me for this project. Just as exciting, I now have a great reason to voice my admiration of these authors—and their dedication to the craft—by talking about Liz, and Stevan, and Joanna, and Lauren, and Gregg, and all the others, in forums such as these. Thanks for the opportunity, Naomi!

Brave on the Page, $14, can be made-to-order at any Espresso Book Machine in as much time as it takes to make a latte, or it can be ordered online from these retailers.

Laura’s Bio: Laura Stanfill is a novelist, knitter, coffee-drinker, amateur photographer, the editor of Brave on the Page and the founder of Forest Avenue Press, which strives to publish quiet novels.

Favorite Place in the Whole Wide World

Our family has enjoyed many adventures.  We have discovered so many special places along the way.








…and sweet.

It’s impossible to look back and choose one favorite place from so many golden ones.

Whether I’m high or low, whether they’re near or far, I hold them within my heart.  In that place, whatever happens, I know we can be together in a heartbeat.

And that is my favorite place in the whole wide world.

All words and images copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

Mine (yours, and ours)

My child…my world…

My wish is for her to grow up in a world where people are judged for who they are, and not by the color of their skin, not for who they love, who they worship, by their gender, or the size of their bank account.  My wish is for this world to become our world, where ‘live and let live’ is only the starting point, and where my children, your children, all children become ‘ours’ to educate, to heal, to care for so they are prepared and able to help make our world a better place.

And because it’s the right thing to do.

 That is my wish.

All words and images c2012 Naomi Baltuck