Beguine Again

 Hello, dear friends!

The Bardo Group has merged with Bequine Again, a B-zine featuring

an international collective of artists, poets, writers, and storytellers fostering peace, proximity and healing

through our love of the arts and humanities.

Please come visit!

2012 Blog of the Year Awards!!!

On December 9th 2011, I wrote my first post for Writing Between the Lines.  I’d been told for years to start a blog, because a writer needs a social media platform.  I kept putting it off.  I knew nothing about blogs or blogging.  I felt I had little to say, and why would strangers want to bother reading?  But I took the plunge, because that’s what authors are supposed to do.   It turns out to be one of the best investments I ever made!

Through blogging I discovered a new way to tell stories, using photographs from my life and travels.  I’ve read so many great blogs, learned so much, met so many people, made so many friends from all over the world.   Some of these friends have nominated me for the 2012 Blog of the Year Award.  They have helped me earn my six stars, and then some.  Before I pass this award along, I want to thank these folks for nominating me for this honor, and tell you about what makes these bloggers so outstanding.

Jueseppi B. of The Obamacrat.com is a passionate blogger who has accumulated well over a million views in the last year.  He is a passionate man who speaks out for justice, champions many causes, but also has a soft spot for poetry and fine cuisine.  He was one of my first followers, and I have been a follower of his since I took my first baby steps into the blogosphere.

Maggi Myklebust of Flyawayhomebook.com is the author of  a memoir Fly Away Home, which reads like a novel.  She has led such an interesting life as an American ex-pat in Norway.  Her blog is many things–read about the writing life, learn about adjusting to life in another country, and get to know a very lovely person.  When she nominated me for this award, she mentioned that I was the first person outside of her family to leave a comment on her blog.  I thought surely she had been writing her blog for years, as it was so well done.  What a fortunate day it was for me to have stumbled upon her.  I hope you will check out her blog, and buy her book!

Anotherdayinparadise is written by a woman who has traveled the world.  She plays piano, shares lovely photos from her travels, and has home bases in three continents.  Her family is large and adorable, and I love the peek into that side of her life too.   She was one of my first followers, and I have truly enjoyed following her blog this last year.  I think you will too.

Marsha Lee AKA The History Gal is a force of nature in the blogosphere.  A retired history teacher, she is interested in everything, and blogs about all her interests, from history to quilting to travel to the pros and cons of a timeshare in Hawaii.  I have learned a lot about the basics of blogging, such as watermarking photos, from her posts about the nuts and bolts of blogging.

Eunice at Living and Loving is another blogger with many interests.  She posts about travel, jewelry and beading, birdwatching, trucking, and photography.  She is a very interesting person, and she writes an interesting, well-rounded blog.

Len Williams-Carver at myownheart.me truly does write from the heart.  Like most people, she wrestles with questions about faith and family, life and death.  She also shares her writing, humorous posts that highlight human behavior, and her take on the world.

Ivonprefontaine of Teacher as Transformer is a teacher, a poet, and a gentle soul with an open mind and a big heart.

The London Flower Lover is a team of flower lovers who are all about flowers.  Poems, photographs, stories that celebrate everything floral.

FIRST OF ALL…to all of the bloggers listed above, I say “Backatcha!”  Just in case you haven’t collected all six stars, I am nominating you for the 2012 Blog of the Year Award.  AND NOW… I would like to pass on the 2012 Blog of the Year Award to the following bloggers…I hope you will take a moment to check out their outstanding blogs.

Nikki of imayfly.com is an excellent writer with a fresh voice, capable of eliciting laughter and invoking profound thought.
Scilla of Scillagrace is another writer of exceptional talent.  She loves history and photography, but whatever topic she addresses, she does so with a grace and wisdom that inspires.
Jamie of The Poet By Day is one of the most talented poets in the blogosphere, with a depth and wisdom to her words that is often breathtaking.
Sarah of sarahpotterwrites is a novelist, a talented musician, and a poet with a fresh voice and a sly sense of humor.  Her mastery of the haiku is a wonder.  Now she is organizing a novel-writing support group to help fellow writers their first draft from start to finish this winter.
Grace of Czech the Flip is a Filipino mom married to a Czech and living in the Czech Republic.  I really enjoy learning about the history and culture of the Czech Republic, as well as snatches of every day life in another country.  The bonus: watching her little boy Jakob growing up!
Lisa at Zebra Designs and Destinations has created a blog rich with color and full of zest.  An artist, a traveler, a photographer, and an observer!  Now go check out her latest post on the hatching of a nest of sea turtles!
Carol of Wanderings of an Elusive Mind is a wise and gentle woman who lives her life with a grace I can only aspire to.  I like to go with her on a morning walk.  She might give you a tour of the garden, or a peek at the birds that flock to her yard.
George Weaver of She Kept a Parrot is another gentlewoman who has a way with both words and a camera, and  a great eye for a story.
Sabrina of Sabrina Garie is a mom, sci-fi geek, and an author with a fresh new voice and a great sense of humor.  Check out her blog for an excerpt from her exciting new book, Fires of Justice.
Madhu of The Urge to Wander has a classy blog featuring stories of her travels, and amazing photographs of exotic and enchanting places.  She has been EVERYWHERE!  She gave me my first award, The Leibster Award, which was welcome encouragement for a newbie blogger.
Ailsa of Where’s My Backpack? inspires a global blogging community interested in travel and photography by offering a weekly travel-related theme to which bloggers throughout the world respond.  Many of my favorite posts were written in response to her prompts.
Jake of Jakesprinter is a great guy who also encourages and inspires the blogging community with a weekly challenge called Jake’s Sunday Post.
Frizztext of Flickr Comments is a musician, a photographer, and a storyteller.  He too challenges his readers to contribute stories to his blog–everything from A-Z, one letter at a time!
Island Traveler of this man’s journey is a man with a heart full of love.  He inspires the community to think about life and love and family through a weekly challenge posed to a global blogging community.
Kourtney of Kourtney Heinz’s Journal is a writer who writes, attends writing conferences, and is sharing, step by step, the process with readers the process of marketing a novel.
Pat of  A New Day writes of living life fully with Fibromyalgia.  Get inspired by her strong spirit, beautiful photographs, and observations of life.
Tess of How the Cookie Crumbles will give you an irreverent view of life after 65.  She is a talented writer who will treat you to some striking samples of Flash Fiction.
Lesley of Inspiration Import: Lesley Fletcher Art and Words–Spirit and Soul says it all in the title of her blog.
Cee of Cee’s Photography is a great photographer.  She poses another weekly challenge, the Fun Foto Challenge, which attracts many participants from all over the globe.
Elizabeth of Mirth and Motivation is an intelligent blog that features great photography, poetry, and insight on life.
Elisa of Fun and Fabulousness for great photos and a great perspective.
Cathryn Wellner of This Gives Me Hope, a blog which always inspires, entertains, and makes me smile.
Winners, if you don’t have time to pass this on, that’s okay.   If you’d like to thank and acknowledge the friends and followers who have enriched your life and the blogworld this last year, check out this link for official 2012 Blog of the Year rules.

Sun (Worship)

Sunset at Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires.

Reconstruction of an ancient home in the Jewish quarter of Cordoba, Spain.

A minaret at sunrise in Cappadocia, Turkey.

Traitor’s Gate in the Tower of London, where prisoners came in by boat, and looked back one last time at the sun.

In Seattle we have our own kind of sun worship.

All words and images c 2014Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of the One Word Photo Challenge: Sun.

Click here for more interpretations of Cee’s Oddball Challenge: Week 38.

Life Will Out

While traveling in Argentina, we visited La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires.   Since 1822, nearly 5,000 mausoleums have been constructed  in the highest fashion of the times, from Baroque and Neo-Gothic to Art Deco and Art Nouveau.   La Recoleta is a city for the dead, with elegant marble tombs neatly laid out in blocks over fourteen acres.

Some are maintained, for love or pride. Others, like the poet Shelley’s statue of Ozymandias, have fallen into disrepair, covered with spider webs and graffiti, littered with broken glass and faded plastic flowers.  Feral cats stare warily from marble perches and skulk away sideways if approached.

We saw the grave of Eva Peron, and other statesmen, poets, generals, and presidents.

More interesting to me was the final resting place for a mother and her infant.  They were not famous, but clearly they were loved.  Did she and the child die in childbirth or were they swept away by an epidemic? In any case, a grieving husband and father was spared to erect this memorial. Was he able to pick up the pieces of his broken life to find happiness again?

Wherever we go, we find reminders of all the stories in this world that will never be told.  When I photographed this memorial, I could be certain of only two things.  Both mother and child were subject to an early and tragic demise.  And, as seen by the lush green fern sprouting from the dust collecting in the cracks in the stone, life goes on.

All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck

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

Unique New York!


Open mouth.  Insert foot.  Things happen.  At least that’s what happens to me.  At 85, my mother’s sister Loena suffers from heart trouble and Quilter’s Thumb, but she never complains.  She uses a cane on good days, a walker or wheelchair the rest of the time.  Aunt Loena lives in Detroit, but was always too busy taking care of everyone else to travel.  A couple years ago, with my Michigan sister Lee, my aunt flew to Seattle to come see us.

She was frail and tired easily.  Once, when we couldn’t hear her snoring, I tiptoed in to see if she was still breathing.  But we laughed often and loudly; I felt my mother’s presence so strongly I wanted to pour Mom a cup of coffee too.  The visit went so well I asked my aunt where she’d like to go next.  I figured Holland, Michigan, perhaps, to see the tulips.  But no.  Aunt Loena said, “Your mother and I were planning a trip to New York, to see the Statue of Liberty and lots of Broadway musicals.  That was before she got sick.”

I’ll take you!” I blurted.  Then I felt sick.  I’ve always suffered from Foot in Mouth disease.  My other chronic illness was Newyorkaphobia.  In my mind NYC was big, bad, dangerous.  AND expensive.  I had the money, but it was tucked away for a trip to England, a place I really did want to see. But a promise is a promise.

I researched airfare, hotels, even how to hail a cab.  We picked up travel companions right and left, like Dorothy on her way to Emerald City.  I ordered show tickets, mailed maps and instructions to them all.  My daughter Bea and I flew into JFK.  My sister Con flew from Alaska to her daughter Jane’s, and they trained in from Boston.  Lee and Aunt Loena flew into Newark from Detroit.  We all arrived within twenty minutes of each other at the Casablanca Hotel, half a block from Times Square!

I chose the hotel for its proximity to theaters and its uniqueness–the breakfast room is called Rick’s, after Humphrey Bogart’s character in Casablanca.  Six women crammed themselves into a suite meant for four, but the staff didn’t seem to mind.  Everyone was helpful; they even provided a wheelchair.  At  Casablanca’s Happy Hour, we had fruit, cookies, wine and cheese.

Jane, Constance, Bea, Lee, and Aunt Loena at a Very Happy Hour.

Then it was time to go to our first Broadway musical, Billy Elliot.  Jane had made other plans, so five of us stood outside the hotel while I hailed a cab.  It pulled over to the curb and we all crowded in.

“Only four, please.”  The driver had an accent, and was clearly from somewhere in Africa.

“The theater is just a few blocks,” I said, “but my auntie can’t walk.”

“I cannot take more than four passengers.”

“We don’t mind Cozy.”

“No, no, no.  I mean I get into big trouble for carrying more than four passengers.”

“Oh, we don’t want to get you in trouble.  It’s not far.  My sisters can walk, and we’ll meet them there.”

Lee and Con got out and started walking. He put his hand to his forehead and sighed.  “Call them back.”

“Really?”  I hollered for my sisters, and soon we were all back in the cab, with Bea ducked down out of sight.

Our driver was Daniel, a doctor from Togo, who was making better money driving a cab in NYC than in the medical profession in Togo.  We asked about his family, and whether he missed his home.  “It’s best for the children,” he said. He was curious about our lives too.  As we talked, my fears dropped away.

Fool’s luck must have sent Mr. Adenje to us on our first evening in New York.  I knew we were in good hands, even before he refused any money for the ride, even the twenty dollar tip I tried to give him.  Where does THAT ever happen?  Certainly not in Seattle!  This couldn’t be the ugly city that so terrified me!  At first I thought Mr Adenje was an angel in disguise; I have come to think of him as the spirit of New York.

The whole time we were there we never met an unkind person.  Everyone had a story to tell, like Fergus, the driver who gave Aunt Loena her first buggy ride.  He told us he gained fifteen pounds in one week when his mother came from Ireland to visit and meet her first grandchild.

Fergus, Bea, and Aunt Loena.

At a hot dog stand in Central Park, the elderly gent ahead of us insisted on treating.  Aunt Loena was convinced he was Scottish, despite his yarmulke and Yiddish accent.  “In any case,” I told her, “you’ve still got what it takes!”   My aunt laughed and pshawed, but still she blushed like a young girl.

Central Park is an oasis in a concrete jungle.

The next night, by the time Aunt Loena could shuffle out of the theater, where we saw Phantom of the Opera, the cabs were all gone.  But a man in a rickshaw pedaled up; another ‘first’ for my aunt.  She and I sat with Bea on my lap, as Rene from El Salvador wove through late-night traffic, cutting off stretch limousines, jumping potholes like a Latin Evil Knievel, and cutting through dark alleys.  He hadn’t been home for six years, and had a daughter he had never seen.  He said he liked working the late night shift, because the days could be so very hot.  While we talked with Rene, Aunt Loena smiled and waved to strangers on the street, and they all smiled and waved back.

Bea and Auntie Lee on our city bus tour.

Ghosts of New York’s past can still be seen.

And then there is the Natural History Museum.  Very Educational.

 Since then I have returned to the Big Apple of my own free will.   I brought my husband, my kids, and an open heart.


I am learning to let go of my fears.  There are so many places I still want to see, too many stories out in that wide world I have yet to hear.  I hope I never get too old to enjoy them, or too afraid to try.  After all, I’ve already seen how high an old lady can kick up her heels while keeping a sturdy grip on her walker.

All images and words copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

For more great photos of New York, check out “I Love New York” in writer Kourteny Heintz’s Journal!

Befriend the Ides of March

Last year for Valentine’s Day, guests came to our house dressed as as history’s greatest lovers.  My husband and I were Harold Godwinson and his handfast wife, Edith SwanNeck.  Our daughter Bea came as Petrarch, Father of Humanism and victim of unrequited love.  The guest list also included Sonny and Cher, Marge and Homer Simpson, Clark Kent and Lois Lane, The Little Red-headed Girl, and Narcissa, to name a few.

This year, the day of our Valentine’s Day party fell upon February 12th, so we decided–what the heck!  We would celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, our favorite president.  In the costume room we found top hats, stovepipe hats and a couple of wigs, which we cut into strips for beards.  Decorating was easy; everything with a face, like the bust of Diana the moon goddess and our storyteller dolls, sported a beard and top hat.  Lincoln Logs were the centerpiece, and we put 203 candles on the birthday cake (just kidding! We used numerals 2-0-3).   We had rolls of Lincoln pennies for pitching or playing poker, a big portrait of Abe to play Pin the Wart on the President, and all the fixings to build pretzel log cabins.  We never got to half that stuff, but we did get to hear a seven-year-old guest (Go, Sylvia!) read a moving excerpt from the Gettysburg Address.

This month, I’m booked for St. Patrick’s Day, but am planning ahead to next year, for my Ides of March party.  If you’ve read Shakespeare, you know a soothsayer forewarned Julius Caesar about his assassination on March 15th, telling him to “Beware the Ides of March.”  So we will have to commemorate the event, of course, with a toga party, B.Y.O.B. (bring your own bed sheet).  We’ll eat Roman fare, and I am fortunate enough to have musician and storytelling friends who will tell stories (Roman myths) and sing for their supper.  I might even rent a temple for the day.  (It’s been known to happen.)

The calendar is full of odd and interesting holidays. International Talk Like A Pirate Day, Fruitcake Toss Day, Pi Day (on 3/14, of course).  And one of these years I will celebrate National Barbie Day–come as you aren’t.  Guests could dress each other up as Zombie Barbie, Office Slut Barbie, Star Trek Nerd Ken or maybe Trailer Trash Ken.

I try to do in my writing what I do with my parties—people them with quirky characters, and create an interesting backdrop.  In The Keeper of the Crystal Spring, a historical novel co-written with my sister, the village of Enmore Green is populated with affable eccentrics like Edwin MoonCatcher, Agilbert PigWife, and Thurgood GiantKiller.

For deliciously quirky characters, read Jonathan Safran Foer.  He deftly uses humor to tell serious stories, as in Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  I also highly recommend the movies based on those novels.

And next October, go to someone else’s Halloween party, but the following week try hosting your own All Saint’s Day Bash.  In your writing and in your life, if you have a choice, try taking the road less traveled.  Befriend, rather than beware The Ides of March.

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge.

 

Remembering Fort Detroit

 

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At Isaac Newton School, my third grade Social Studies teacher walked out of The Far Side into our classroom.  Mrs. Glotzbecker was a plump middle-aged woman who squeezed into dresses suitable only for Doris Day in her prime.  She wore pointy rhinestone-studded glasses, and bleached blond hair in a French twist.  She’d taught all my big sisters, and whenever she called on me, it was by one of their names.

On the first day of class we opened our history books and read about Fort Detroit.  Our assignment was to draw a picture of it.  Every day we read aloud, then worked silently.  If Mrs. Glotzbecker caught you chewing gum, like Jerry Fink, she made you wear it on your nose.  If she caught you talking, like Jerry Fink, she made you sit in the wastebasket.  Repeat offenders felt the sting of Old Harry, the paddle on the wall.  Jerry became the stuff of legend after Mrs. Glotzbecker sat him in the cardboard wastebasket and it split into pieces.  He was elevated to folk hero when she broke Old Harry on his backside and he just grinned at his buddies, who cheered him on.

Every day in class I worked on my drawing.  Fort Detroit looked better and better.  I added a canoe on the riverbank, a fish in the water.  After a week or two, I couldn’t think of anything else to add, so I used crayons to color it, but details were lost beneath the wax.  I erased stuff and started over, but that left smudges and wore holes in the paper.  I suspected something was going terribly wrong.  I was sick of Fort Detroit, but kept working it like a hangnail.  Finally Mrs. Glotzbecker collected our notebooks for grading.  She got to mine, and called me to her desk.

“Where’s the rest of your work?” she said.

“You said to draw a picture of Fort Detroit,” I whispered.

“That was weeks ago.  Where are the answers to the questions at the end of the chapter?  And the next five chapters?”

I swear I never heard her tell us to answer any questions.  But, dangit!  I should have known.  I’d had a feeling, but was too shy to ask for help or even clarification.  I was confused, and when Mrs. Glotzbecker reached for Old Harry, I was mortified.

What I learned from Mrs. Glotzpecker that day, I’ve applied to my writing.  Follow the submission guidelines!  And your gut.  When in doubt, raise your hand, ask questions.  Cut the fat for a cleaner read or add a scene to flesh it out, but don’t polish the silver off the teapot, or edit until you’ve worn holes in your paper.

What I learned from Jerry Fink was even more important.  Be resilient.  Build up calluses—in all the right places.  Let no one, and certainly not your editor, intimidate you.  Find a support group to cheer you on—there are local, regional, and national organizations you can join.  Most importantly, remember that sometimes it’s okay to break the rules, but let no one break your spirit.

 

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”

–Leonardo Da Vinci, Italian Renaissance Polymath (1452-1519)                                    

“A poem is never finished, only abandoned.”

–Paul Valery, French Critic and Poet (1871-1945)

“Remember Fort Detroit!”

–Naomi Baltuck, Author, Storyteller, and Native Detroiter (1956- )

 

The Christmas Gang

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There is an ancient British tradition called Ganging, from the Anglo-Saxon word gangen, meaning ‘to go.’ For fifteen hundred years, in what evolved from a solemn prayer ritual, village folk would gather to go ‘beat the boundary.’ They walked all around the parish to impress upon the youngsters’ memories the place they called home. Their elders dunked them in dividing streams, knocked their heads against bordering trees, and made them climb over the roofs of houses built across the line so they would never forget.

Our family has a gentler holiday tradition, a celebration as much as a reminder. Our Christmas tree is nothing like those featured in House Beautiful. It’s topped with a Star of David, as we also celebrate Hanukkah. The oldest ornament, a cellulose umbrella, decorated my great grandmother’s tree. We carefully hang Grandma Rhea’s handmade ornaments, dioramas inside blown eggs dressed in velvet. My children’s contributions are made of Popsicle sticks, glitter, and clothespins. The marshmallow snowman has grown sticky and yellow, with a tiny bite taken on the sly from its backside, but it makes me smile, and bookmarks an era.

I hang up the key to the house where I grew up, and recall my childhood, running barefoot through the back alleys of Detroit. The little Polish dancer wears the same costume my dashing husband wore performing with his dance group Polanie. The glass pen celebrates the year my first book was published. A tiny guitar marks the year my husband broke his leg and, instead of sulking on the couch, taught himself to play guitar. It hangs near Eli’s tiny oboe, and Bea’s violin and clarinet. A small glass bottle contains ash from Mt. St. Helens, collected from my pants cuff in 1980, when I was caught bird watching in Eastern Washington during the eruption.

Each Christmas, we carefully remove our ornaments from their tissue paper cocoons. As we hang them on the tree, we retell the stories. It’s like a crazy quilt, where scraps of colorful memories are pieced together and, voila! E pluribus unum! From the contributions of individuals we have compiled a portrait of one family, and from the many generations we have pieced together one history.

Ganging, or beating the boundary, is a tradition that teaches children their limits and sets rigid boundaries. Instead of knocking our children’s heads against a tree, let’s invite them to help create an empowering communal story among the branches of the family tree, free of boundaries and limitations, celebrating their lives, so full of possibility.

©2017Naomi Baltuck