May You find the Castle in the Middle of Nowhere, made of Sand and Magic.

Some twenty years ago I was having a bad visit with my dad. Bad. My thoughts were dark, and my mood was gloomy. I was filled with the kind of despair that only a fight with a family member can give you. Like, stabbing-knives kind of misery. To escape for a few hours Barb and I took our nephew and the canoe out to an island on the lake. We camped on it every summer as children.

We discovered that someone, now decamped and nowhere in sight, had built a magical sandcastle and town. Suddenly the black clouds lifted and I felt as filled with wonder as my nephew Niko.

one of my favorite photos of a young Niko

The paths of the sandcastle town were lined with wild mushroom caps, still fresh and unblemished. Someone made the sandcastle just hours before we got to the island.

Not a soul in sight

My photographs are decades old and pretty grainy. But you can see the sandcastle is truly in the middle of the Adirondacks wilderness (i.e. the middle of nowhere)… Only the shores of Cranberry Lake are all around.

Who built it? What whimsy inspired the person or persons to erect a fairy town on the waterfront of an island that few people ever visit?

The memory of that discovery and its gift of magic in the middle of a very hard place have remained as detailed as every bit of love and care that someone spent building it for us to find.

For those who want to know what happened next: Dad and I resolved our differences and grew closer again. I never found out who built that fairy town. But I still wonder why it appeared in my life at just that point and I remain grateful and filled with wonder that it did.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, WITH MY DEEPEST THANKS TO MY READERS AND FOLLOWERS. MAY THE COMING YEAR BRING ALL OF YOU DISCOVERIES OF SANDCASTLES WHERE YOU EXPECT THEM LEAST AND WHEN YOU NEED THEM MOST.

NOTES: Text and Photos ©2022 Jadi Campbell. The township of Cranberry Lake has a whopping total of 126 inhabitants. Finding a fairy castle and town built on the island there was nothing short of a miracle.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Samuel Leroy Jackson’s Garters

Samuel L. Jackson was born  December 21, 1948 in Washington, D.C. Mr. Jackson is one of the most versatile and talented actors in Hollywood. My personal favorite of his films is 1997’s Jackie Brown; one of his funniest turns on the screen is in the overwrought Snakes on a Plane. In his honor I am reprinting an earlier post I wrote in praise of snakes. – Jadi

20160719_115907

I’ve written elsewhere about how nice my sister Barb’s garden is. [1]

20160719_120337

She and her husband have created a space that invites you to stay and relax. Along with fruit trees and blueberries, garden beds and flowering bushes, there are ceramics made by both Barb and Javier.

20160719_120413

Each time I return, they’ve made it even more beautiful. My recent visit included a new delight: garter snakes have taken up residence!

20160719_115319

The garter snake is Massachusetts’ official state snake, and is endemic to most of North America. It’s the most common snake species, and closely related to water snakes, the genus Nerodia.

Garters communicate with and seek one another via pheromones. All garter snakes, regardless of color, have a side and a back stripe. The similarity to the garters men used to wear to hold up their socks gives the snake its name.

Barb has thoughtfully created ceramic dens for the snakes in her yard. They curl in the sun to get warm, and head for spots under rocks when it’s too hot or they feel threatened. Garters are mostly harmless, and seldom attack or strike unless cornered or threatened.

20160719_120109

I find snakes fascinating. [2] Sacred snakes were used by the Oracle at Delphi and in ancient Minos. Recall the cobra, who spread its hood to shelter the Buddha. St. Patrick supposedly drove the snakes out of Ireland. [3] On a practical level, the garter snakes in Barb and Javier’s yard will eliminate any pest threat from rodents. (They also eat snails and slugs, common garden problems in the wet Northwest.)

20160719_115338

As I admire the yard and go look from time to time for the two snakes I’ve seen in different parts of the garden, I think mostly about the fact that the presence of snakes means the small biosphere of my sister’s home is a healthy one. It’s not a coincidence that garter snakes are often referred to as ‘garden snakes’.

20160719_115922

NOTES: [1] See my earlier post Meet the One-Tracks. [2] Fun science facts: some garter snake species have two-colored tongues. They are ovoviviparous, meaning they give birth to live young. Garter snakes go into something called brumation before mating. [3] Ireland didn’t have snakes….

Text and Photos Copyright ©2016 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Garden Snakes. Find out more about garter snakes at: snake removal, www.livescience, www.popsci

Uwe’s photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Today’s Birthday: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was founded on December 14, 1950 to help millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes following WWII. In 1954, the UNHCR was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Their headquarters are located in Geneva, Switzerland. The work of the organization to protect and help refugees all over the globe is more vital than ever. You can donate by clicking on this link: Donate.unhcr.org

In honor of the work that the UNHCFR tirelessly does on behalf of our world, I am reprinting the post I wrote about why I decided to offer trauma massage for refugees. – Jadi

After more than a decade, it was back. An insidious, slowly increasing unease, a worried feeling that the world was spinning out of control. For months I’d watched news reports about refugees drowning off the coast in places like Libya or Lampadusa, Italy.

The reports came with more frequency, their tone more urgent. One night I saw the tragic footage of a small child, lifeless where he’d washed up on a beach in Turkey.

That Turkish beach is in Bodrum, and I once set foot there. Two years after I got married we spent a vacation in Turkey. Uwe and I began with the magic of Istanbul. We visited ancient Greek and Roman ruins, took off our shoes at the Blue Mosque, and travelled down the coast as tourists on a local bus line. At rest stops the driver came around with rose water for passengers to wash their hands and faces.

We bought rugs in Bodrum and had them shipped home. I joked about magic carpet rides. We put a wool rug I’d chosen in the center of our living room. Its wavy stripes had reminded me of the ribbon candy my grandparents always gave us when we visited.

IMG_7568

Now, when I looked from the television to the floor, I saw waves in a treacherous ocean. I saw the long voyage of those desperately trying to save themselves and their families from wars.

Images of bombs and flight began to haunt my dreams. I had trouble sleeping and for a while I stopped watching the news. It was too close. The borders between frivolous holidays and grim realities had blurred. Actually, they’ve never really existed to begin with.

I was slipping into a spiral of feeling overwhelmed, and helpless, and very sad.

A German friend came for her monthly massage. “I’ve begun volunteering with refugees here,” she said. We talked through much of the session and I asked question after question, curious to know how she came to the decision to help refugees. I began to rethink how to respond to my encroaching depression and what I could do.

I talked it over with Uwe. A few weeks later, I called the Rathaus (Town Hall) to offer my services.

NOTES: © 2015 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Helping Refugees: Part One. I wrote an entire thread on helping refugees if you want to read further. Uwe’s images from our trips and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Today’s Birthday: Stacey Yvonne Abrams

Stacey Abrams  was born December 9, 1973 in Madison, Wisconsin. A Democrat, Abrams is a politician, lawyer, author, and activist for voting rights. In 2018 she founded an organization to deal with voter supression called Fair Fight Action. Ms. Abrams’ efforts got out the vote in Georgia.

I would love to see her put in charge of assuring voting booth access for every state in the USA. Stacey Abrams has brought international attention to solutions that address inequality in access to voting, especially for blacks and minorities. In her honor I am reprinting the post I wrote about election night, 2016. – Jadi

On November 8, America voted for a new president. I sent my overseas ballot off weeks before the election.

I live in Germany, so it was early evening our time when the first results started being tallied. Uwe and I watched the nightly news and listened as stations began live reports from around the US. The living room glowed with candles. Around 10:30 p.m. Uwe said, “I think something’s burning,” and went out on our balcony. I got up and followed him. Sure enough, red flames were visible in the house right across the street from us.

20161108_195908

“Hilfe!” voices shouted, and from blocks away came the blare of fire trucks. By now smoke was billowing. Teams of firemen raced around to the back of the building. People hung out of windows waving their arms, or watched from neighbors’ houses. The firemen put up klieg lights and a long ladder to rescue people from windows and then aimed water hoses at the roof.

They quickly had the situation under control: it was more smoke than fire, so to speak. I kept ducking back in the living room to watch the election returns.

Life felt suddenly, completely, dizzingly surreal. The election-cycle reminder that I’m an American citizen living overseas; an election unlike any other; a house burning. Maybe the entire goddamned street where we live is on fire.

Later – days later – I learned that the whole thing had only been a drill. A practice fire.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the metaphors inherent in this experience. As I turn it around inside my heart and head I get dizzy again. I leave it to my readers to take from this story what you can.

I’m going to go light a candle.

20161108_195944

NOTES: Quick December 2022 update: Sanity has prevailed! Georgians rejected  an election denier with no prior political experience who stated he would push for a national abortion ban without exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother … (but pressured several lovers to get abortions). The state just re-elected Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock instead. © 2016 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Our House is on Fire!

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

That Collection of Soaps

Putin and the Ukraine are the latest example in a long sad line of history. Another madman invades his neighbors.

The past repeats itself.

We watch the news each night and wonder, will Putin resort to dropping nukes? Or will he let his despot buddy Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko push the button in Belorussia? I watch the maps showing a 50 kilometer long procession of tanks heading inexorably towards Kyiv. The Ukraine is the country on the other side of Poland, which is the country on the other side of – us.

I take walks. I do the daily shopping and welcome my routines. Yesterday morning, coming around the corner I saw stacks and stacks of boxes in the plazza in front of our Town Hall. I went over and checked them out. They looked like supplies, the kind you gather and send as disaster relief or to refugee camps.

Back at home I immediately logged into our town’s Rathaus website. I guessed correctly: our town square is Ground Zero for goods to send east. The Ukrainians need sleeping bags, clothes, shoes, socks, coats, blankets, and food, and bottled water, and toys, and games, and (this one just about did me in) stuffed animals for little children.

The invaded Ukrainians need bandages and medicine and soap and toothbrushes and combs. I have a collection of these items along with pocket sewing kits, all saved in case a house guest spending the night forgot to bring their own from home.

… Or  someone in a war zone who left their house without the time to consider such mundane articles as the bombs began to fall…

I made a package and labeled everything in German and English. This morning on my way to the plaza I stopped at a bakery and bought some Butterbrezeln and belegtes Brotchen (buttered pretzels and sandwiches). The Rathaus website suggested snacks for the volunteers would be appreciated.

This morning at 9:00 workers are loading a giant transport truck. Over a dozen volunteers are packing boxes, sorting items into piles (a large one of sleeping bags). I set my little bag on a long table where a sign hung saying, Medikamenten und Hygiene. Someone directed me to place the bakery items by the coffee machine set up for the volunteers. A huge bag filled with pretzels was already there.

The transport truck in the foreground

And I’m crying as I write this, even as I think in the worst of times some people show their finest qualities.

The truck leaves tomorrow afternoon and is scheduled to arrive on the Polish-Ukrainian border on Monday. The action is organized by the Heck Spedition GmbH and the international YMCA. This is a time  to come together and give aid where we can, in whatever ways we can.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2022.

Here is the information from the Rathaus website.

Hilfstranport für ukrainische Kriegsflüchtlinge

Für einen HIlfstransport nach Medyka an der polnisch-ukrainischen Grenze sammelt die Heck Spedition GmbH, unterstützt durch den CVJM, von Mittwoch bis Freitag, 2. bis 4. März 2022, Schlafsäcke, warme Kleidung, Schuhe, Socken, neue Unterwäsche, Decken, Riegel, Babybedarf, Pampers, Spielsachen, Kuscheltiere, Bürsten, Kämme, Medikamente, Pflaster, Verbände und ähnliches.

Sie können die Sachen zu den folgenden Annahmezeiten auf dem Gerlinger Rathausplatz abgeben:

  • Mittwoch, 02.03.2022, 13.00-19.00 Uhr
  • Donnerstag, 03.03.2022, 09.00-19.00 Uhr
  • Freitag, 04.03.2022, 09.00-15.00 Uhr

Wer den Organisatoren bei Annahme, Sortieren und Verpackung, helfen möchte, kommt einfach zu den Annahmezeiten auf den Rathausplatz. Willkommen sind auch kleine Snacks zur Stärkung der Helferinnen und Helfer.

Der Transport wird am Freitag, 4. März 2022, starten und soll am Montagmorgen am Zielort eintreffen.

Kontakt: Heck Spedition GmbH, Telefonnummer 07156/43580

Wir danken allen Spenderinnen und Spendern sowie allen Helferinnen und Helfern für ihre Unterstützung an den Aktionen!

Staying Connected at the Holidays

NOTE: For more posts go to jadicampbell.com

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with electronic media. It has dumbed us down (and as climate change proves, we probably weren’t all that bright to begin with). It’s created a world populated by people who spend their time chasing ‘likes’.

But…. it helps me stay connected to my family. We’re scattered across three continents and four countries. It’s cool when we get to share our various parts of the world with each other. These days, being so far apart is a big-time bummer. The COVID crisis prevented us from reuniting, and I feel farther away than ever from my sisters and nephew.

So we talk twice a week, at an hour when across the globe Niko is getting home from the bar he owns, I’ve finished dinner, and Pam and Barb are eating breakfast or getting up. We always appreciate the calls when Niko checks in at two in the morning his time….

I don’t know how the rest of you manage to keep in touch with the people who matter to you. I only know that it DOES matter, perhaps more than ever before. Our world is fragile, and our lives have meaning because of who we allow into them. Go ahead: make that phone call or Zoom call or visit in person if you can. I am really, really looking forward to hugging my family members once again.

In the meantime, we chat.

Merry Christmas to you and your families, wherever you are!

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, and is now a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

My Imaginary Friends: #10 A Golden Retriever

NOTE: For more posts go to jadicampbell.com

He was the world’s coolest dog. Our family pet Sam was a really, really smart golden retriever with a sense of humor. When we were kids, in the winter time he loved to track my youngest sister Barb. He’d go looking for her and then freeze so she couldn’t spot him sneaking up from behind. Sam got a running start, charged up from behind across the snow – and once he reached her, he’d ever so delicately stand up on his hind legs to put his front paws on her shoulders, very gently tap, and drop back to all fours and watch her tip forward.

Barb would do a face plant in the snow and come up crying, covered in so much snow that she looked like the Abominable Snowchild. Meanwhile, lined up in the living room at the sliding glass doors to watch (because Sam loved an audience), Barb’s sisters and parents would be crying too… with laughter.

Sam walked us to the corner each morning where we waited for the school bus. Kids on the bus  would already be lined up at the windows on the left hand side. Once the driver closed the doors and headed down the road, Sam raced him. He ran alongside the bus, all us kids cheering him on, until the driver turned at a street lined with hedges. Sam sailed through the air in an incredibly high, graceful jump over the hedge. I’d swear he was showing off…. and then, his display of doggie dynamism finished, he turned and headed back home.

The greatest dog in the world. When it was time to imagine a dog as the companion for Coreen, my traumatized survivor of an end of the world cult in Tsunami Cowboys, he had to be a golden retriever. – Jadi

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021. Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Competition

Prepare to meet Todd, a hero with dangerous fantasies. Coreen, trapped in a cult. Ronnie, dreaming other people’s futures. Guy, waiting for disaster at a Christmas Market. And Lynn, the connecting thread, taking a train with a seductive stranger. By turns terrifying and funny, this is the story of people riding life’s waves… the tsunami cowboys.

This link will get you there.

Books make great gifts! My other books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out.

The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and is now a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

My Imaginary Friends: #8 A Kid Parading in a Frog Suit

Go to jadicampbell.com for more posts.

I probably marched in a half-dozen Halloween parades as a little kid. Our mom was full of energy and did things like sew matching Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee outfits for me and Pam. Another year we were Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy, complete with red yarn for hair. One Halloween she painted Barb up as a clown…and even provided her with a real cigar.

Mom once helped Pam make a papier-maché witch’s head complete with a long nose that had a wart on the end of it. Pam won the Most Horrible award that year!

Costumes got passed on down through the years. In those days you could still go to antique stores and rummage through trunks of musty-smelling old clothes: we scored blouses with whale-bone stays and jackets complete with mothballs and moth holes. But the costume of legend is a Halloween outfit from my dad Bobbo’s childhood. Bobbo had a full body frog costume that was green with yellow spots and had a matching head that buttoned onto the neck. The illusion was complete with a pair of swimming flippers that Mom dyed green (of course) with food coloring.

Best Halloween costume ever!

No photo description available.
Bobbo’s costume sadly has gone missing but this is a mask I wore at the Oregon Country Fair. I felt completely at home in it

Once inside that suit, I was a frog. Literally, because an adult needed to unbutton it from the outside in order to extract the child inside.

Our grade school held an annual parade on the grounds and the town would come watch us march around the grass. But once my part of the line began moving, I had a problem. Actually, I had two problems. The flippers were adult-sized, and I was maybe eight years old. I kept tripping, because they wouldn’t stop sliding off my shoes…

I stumbled yet again and picked those flippers up off the grass for the last time and in desperation put them on over my hands, trying to catch up with the children ahead of me who I could see (kind of) through the eye holes in the frog mask which were located somewhere higher than my own eyes and meanwhile the head was growing hotter and hotter because I started to cry for a couple minutes and that in turn totally steamed up the enclosed space inside the mask which of course was nonporous because it was painted with some no-doubt noxious and maybe even toxic 1930’s paint mix…..

Half a century later all this found its way into my short story What Died in the Fridge. A wonderful postscript: when my oldest friend Doris read the book, she immediately recognized the scene!

Happy Halloween!

NOTES: © 2021 Jadi Campbell. Uwe’s images from our trips and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.  You’ll find What Died in the Fridge in my short story collection The Trail Back Out. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies for American Book Fest. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

# 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 #

PLEASE NOTE: I’ve moved. You’ll find me (and all of my previous posts) at my new address jadicampbell.com.

I always feel a little strange when I recognize it’s time to mark milestones and I have several to announce.

This is my 99th blog post.

I’ve posted in these virtual pages twice a month since I began way back in September of 2012. It all started with my husband’s suggestion that I establish an Internet presence….

My published books are fiction, and this blog serves as a good place to present excerpts. Potential readers of my books might want a sample of my writing and a glimpse of the human being behind the words. It’s also a place for non-fiction essays. I get to explore ideas and topics that don’t need to be transformed for novels. Posting every other week is great writerly discipline. I’ve never missed a bi-monthly posting date!

My topics bounce all over the place like gleeful ping pong balls. I’ve written about current events like The Death of Robin Williams, Helping Refugees: Part 1 and Tunisia Without Terrorism, to the World Cup in The Year the World Came to Party.

I occasionally write about historic events, too. Several are 8:15 A.M.Amsterdam, and Stolpersteine 1: Tsunami Cowboy’s Stumbling Stones.

I riff on artists in Meet the One-Tracks and art, like the sacred sublime in Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres or sacred sexual in The Erotic Architecture of Khajuraho. I profile art made by human hands Wine and Sculpture, Wildly Creative in Upstate NY: The Ferros of Little York, Egypt 1: We had the entire Valley of the Kings to Ourselves or found in Nature: The Music of the Heavenly Spheres, Steamy Rotorua! and It Was a Bitterly Cold -22°.

Art can serve as reminders to bring us together, as in Stolpersteine 1: Tsunami Cowboy’s Stumbling Stones and The United Buddy Bears.

Of course, I write about writers: My Sister & Maurice Sendak and Baum, Bats, and Monkeys. I quote my beloved Shakespeare with Egypt 2: Along the Nile. Even Colleen McCullough gets a mention in The Outback!

And I write about writing itself: The Gift of Gab, Someone Burned My Book.

Food has been a topic: My Mother-In-Law’s Cookies, Despair Is An Exotic Ingredient, Adventures in China’s New Territories 3: The 100-Pound Fish, Deep Fried and Served with Sweet & Sour Sauce, The Fork is Mightier Than the Sword. A Post in Which I Eat Paris, The Salt Pits and A Visit to the Food Bank, Part 1 &  2.

Holidays have been fun, from You Rang? (the worst/best Valentine’s Day in history) to Happy Halloween!

My day job is as massage therapist, and sometimes I write about healing and medicine. Helping Refugees: Part 1,  Massage in Indonesia: Lombok, Adventures in China’s New Territories 4: The Gods of Medicine, A Massage at Wat Pho are a few of the posts.

…. and this all began simply as a way to introduce my two novels Tsunami Cowboys and Broken In: A Novel in Stories. Both are available at amazon.com in book and eBook form.

It’s been a fun journey these last three years! Thanks to all of you for visiting these pages. I wish everyone the happiest of holidays. I’ll be back in the new year with an announcement. Milestone #2 is on the way!!!

# 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99

The Human Dimension. Helping Refugees: Part 4

The Germans have a wry saying. “We sent for guest workers, but Menschen came instead.” Meaning that after WWII, the work force of foreigners who came to Germany turned out to be fellow human beings.

I find myself thinking about that saying. The flow of refugees heading this way is huge and overwhelming, and in some ways I am afraid. I love the security and safety of life here, how clean it is. I’m proud to live in a land with universal health care and great mass transit, wonderful street cafés, and (most important of all) the guarantee of personal freedoms and a firm commitment to human rights.

What does this have to do with the hordes of refugees flooding the country? I’m not sure. Maybe nothing at all. But I hear from some of my friends, “What if Europe becomes Muslim? What if the streets are filled next with women in full burkas? What if we lose our freedoms as Germans bend over backwards to accommodate the newcomers?

They’re nameless, faceless. They’re the others, the ones who constitute a vague but ever-growing threat.

One of my great bonds with the man I married is our desire to explore the world together. We’ve taken vacations in moderate Muslim lands. Every trip was wonderful, filled with people with dreams and hopes like yours and mine. I have a serious disconnect when I try to reconcile the horror of ISIS with the kindness of the friendly people we met in Egypt… Indonesia… Tunisia… Malaysia… Turkey… Singapore. The answer, of course, is they can’t be reconciled. The two have nothing to do with each other.

I’m terrified of the fanaticism that just killed more than 100 people in  Paris. The refugees are terrified, too. The people fleeing to Europe want the same things we do: a civilized place to work, live, and raise their children. A stream of humanity is arriving. People with dreams and hopes, like yours and mine.

Each time I go to massage the refugee M. [1], I’m confronted with my own fear of the unknown foreign.

We have no languages in common. I’m not only working without any knowledge of her history; we can’t even talk.  One of her children remains in the room the entire time to translate into German for her.

These are the hardest sessions I’ve ever attempted.

As a therapist my hands know their work; I’m capable to treat her PTSD symptoms. But the person-to-person connection…. I have to do this solely through touch. The afternoons of therapy have changed my understanding of the human dimension. It’s become more complicated, and much simpler. It’s changed me as well.

NOTES: [1] To respect the privacy of the persons involved I have changed the names and use initials only.