Huge oak trees on the sprawling grounds of a downtown Baton Rouge historical home shaded the Civil War camp reenactment where peaceable uniformed men representing both sides and ladies dressed in period costumes mingled. I swished my bell skirts through the crowds, chatted with friends, and met new historical reenactors at this event. I talked with school children who were there to learn about historical clothing, cooking, blacksmithing, and other living skills from that period.
People were still arriving as a few left early. On my way out the ornate gate, Governor Edwin Edwards approached me. His face glowed with his political charm. He smiled at my attire and handed me his campaign card. “I hope you will vote for me,” he said.
“Oh, sir,” I replied with my Civil War demeanor, “Women can’t vote.”
Notes: This picture of me portraying a Union soldier’s wife amid the tents was taken at a different camp, but it’s the same costume I wore the day I met Governor Edwin Edwards. The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920 more than 50 years after the Civil War period I represented here.
Fourth of July was a special celebration in our family. Flashbacks to my younger years bring images of picnicking beside the San Joaquin River in the days when it was a flowing stream. Our large family climbed out of several cars parked on the roadside above the river. The men and older boys unloaded fishing equipment and an ice chest filled with bottled soft drinks. The women carried food. All descended to the river in a single file on the narrow trail. The women kept watchful eyes on their children.
I never understood why the guys insisted on fishing—they seldom caught any fish—when the ladies had prepared more than enough fried chicken, bologna sandwiches, potato salad, and dessert. My oldest brother’s wife always made a plain-style birthday cake for James, their youngest son.
One year when July 4 was on Sunday, there were no picnic plans. When told there would be no holiday celebration, young James protested. “But we always have a fun day on my birthday.”
The puzzle confounded him more when his mother told him that July 4, Independence Day, was a holiday celebrating America’s freedom. “We will have your cake after lunch here at home,” she said. “First, we will celebrate our freedom of religion by attending church.”
James lifted his face upward with a puzzled expression. “A holiday? You mean like Thanksgiving when we get to stay home from school?”
“Yes, like that,” she said.
“You mean everybody didn’t get the day off work because it was my birthday?”
Many years before the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, my father set gardening examples using biblical principles and the Farmer’s Almanac. The earth—a lot surrounding our modest two-bedroom home—was our responsibility, he said. He toiled the ground somewhat like Adam may have done in the story of that downfall in Genesis in the Christian Bible. Only my father had more modern tools like a shovel, a hoe, and a rake. Spring and Fall, he worked the ground behind the house and planted vegetables around the existing fruit trees. He grew a variety of berries to top our cereal when fresh or for Mama to can for fruit pies and cobblers in the winter. He also cared for the nectarine and apricot trees in the front yard that gave us fresh fruit in summer and canned fruit for winter. The black walnut tree responded well, but cracking those nutshells took muscles more toned than mine.
He revered the Farmer’s Almanac second to holy scripture and searched the worn pages for planting times to yield the best crops. He followed the guide and planted aboveground vegetables in the light of the moon and root vegetables in the dark of the moon. His garden flourished while others failed.
I stopped gardening when I downsized from a home on an acre of ground and moved into an apartment. Now I buy my vegetables from a farmer’s market or grocer and depend on NASA to tell me when to enjoy a full moon.
After listening to Martha Alderson speak at Tri-Valley Writers, I realized my latest novel has plot holes that could double as train tunnels and I have no idea how to fix them. The answer is simple on the surface – keep going. Keep writing notes. Try approaching my muddle-in-the-middle by envisioning the end. Throw in more sensory detail until I really understand the scene and let logic take its course.
But what if I don’t wanna?
What if I woke up in a grouchy mood (for no good reason, mind you) and I can feel my heels start to kick against the floor and a long wail growing up from my toes? The Calvinist in me says get my hinder back in the chair and my pudgy fingertips on the keyboard and write anyway. The coward in me says I should just go back to bed because it’s hopeless…
Long before the widespread Coronavirus outbreak, an imaginary conversation between two people during a pandemic became the opening paragraph of my first Sci-Fi short story. Laura, a travel writer, wanted to leave a protected environment to photograph the Mississippi River, but she was declared terminal and denied government permission to travel. That made her more determined to accomplish her goal. Her wish beyond photographing her travels was to eat fresh blueberry pancakes again, but fresh fruit was absent during the seclusion because of restricted trade with the outside world. Nathan, a governmental appointed live-in assigned to keep her quarantined, became Laura’s ally and planned her escape from a monitored world. Blueberry pancakes became Nathan’s code phrase when he had new information to share with Laura.
The draft languished on my computer until the 2020 pandemic until the California Writers Club High Desert Branch announced a statewide anthology for members. My objective was to be published, but my entry was awarded first prize in Survival: Tales of Pandemic.
A major portion of the prize was a $410.00 donation from the anthology proceeds to Open Heart Kitchen in Livermore, California, my chosen charity, that provides groceries and nutritional hot meals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Blueberry pancakes may not be on the menu, but this contribution will help families in the Tri-Valley escape hunger.
My father was English. My mother was convinced she was a French and Cherokee half-breed—an acceptable term in the early twentieth century that we now recognize as offensive. My DNA shows me as 53% French and a blend of other races, but no predominate Native American. So why doesn’t anyone ask me on France’s Whit Monday if I am French?
Whit Monday, a national holiday in France, is a quiet celebration following Easter Sunday. In Ireland it is known as Whitsuntide, regarded as the unluckiest day of the year when the luck of the Irish fails. That day in the U.S., an Easter Monday tradition, has been celebrated with an egg roll at the Whitehouse since 1878. That event has been canceled during the coronavirus pandemic.
No wonder we celebrate carefree St. Patrick’s Day when Irish leprechauns throw shamrocks and dance around pots of gold.
We are meeting vaccination targets in my region, so more counties are loosening restrictions on businesses and meetings. This is good news, but as today is the Ides of March I’m looking more at the thundercloud than the silver lining. Specifically, I have to ask if I can do normal anymore. Yes, this is a whine for the wimpy, but after a year of staying home I get nervous if I have more than one errand a day. To be honest, I get anxious if I have more than one or two items on my daily to-do list. If anything out of the ordinary arises I panic first, think later. While I can’t actually blame my lack of writing on pandemic stress (I’ve always found reasons to avoid shackling myself to the keyboard), I know the return of normal life will mean more excuses for missing my writing goals.
I’ve admired famous poets for years. Mostly the way they cram a full story into a few lines. After I retired, I dabbled in themed Haiku, a novice trying to create a masterpiece in three lines with a 5-7-5 syllable pattern. Several of my contest entries were published in newspapers in the San Francisco East Bay Area. The theme for this February 2010 entry was Super Bowl Snacks Poetry in Motion.
Fritos and buffalo wings
Soothes pain of losing.
~Violet Carr Moore
My Haiku have appeared in Northern California anthologies, but my writing strengths are short stories, inspirational/spiritual, and memoir.
I was inspired when I heard Dana Gioia (pronounced joy-a), a modern poet, speak at a conference a few years ago. Gioia was the California Poet Laureate (2015) and the Chair of the National Endowment of the Arts (2003-2009). He received many national awards that propelled him to the top of speaker lists. His words reach writers of all genres, not just poets. Perhaps Gioia’s encouragement at that workshop was what prompted me to be one of the first to register to hear him speak at the Tri-Valley Writers Zoom meeting on Saturday, March 20, 2021. This is a free event, open worldwide to individuals who register by the deadline.
I hope Dana will have some wise words for writers like me who need a dose of inspiration to finish an ongoing project. Perhaps his presentation will resonate with you too. Click here to read about the event and register.
The neighbor kids had a method when asking permission from their parents to do something or go somewhere. The middle child said, “Don’t say no.” The youngest child begged, “Please, pretty please, say yes.” The oldest child said, “Maybe?” with a questioning lilt. After a few days, the reluctant parent relented.
My father was a strict, by-the-book person. The book being the family-size Holy Bible King James Version in our living room. His answer to my whimpering. “Couldn’t you just say maybe instead of no?” was Matthew 5:37. “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” If I pursued my quest, he said, “There is no maybe.” Then he quoted James 1:8. “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” I had to wait until school the next day to see what Webster had to say about maybe.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
The unabridged tome perched on a stand guarded the center of the library like a sentry. I flipped the pages to the alphabetical M section. Was it may be or maybe? My spelling skills might have been different than Mr. Webster’s proper English. However it was spelled, I didn’t find it.
I flipped the pages to the preface. I didn’t know what that word meant, but it must have been important or it wouldn’t have been at the front of the dictionary. That’s where I learned that Noah Webster and my father agreed on one thing. They both quoted Bible verses to support their decisions.