Thursday, December 30, 2010

Poem: Landing on your Feet

Landing on your Feet

A lot can happen in a year.

Some ups, some down,
Some ins, some outs,
Some turns, some twists,
Some gloom, some doubt,

Landing on your feet
Can be tricky,

A curve in the road,
A trip on a stick,
A crack in the walk,
A sudden quick kick,

Landing on your feet
Can be tricky,

A day when you’re sad,
A day when you’re glad,
A day when you feel like
The world has gone mad,

Landing on your feet
Can be tricky,

When storm clouds appear
And dampen your day,
Just give me a call,
We’ll go out and play,

Come take my hand,
We’ll do this together,
You mustn’t despair,
We’ll get through this weather,

Our feet on the ground
Firmly in place,
Steady and calm,
We’ll finish this race,


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How Do You Cerebrate?

I wrote this essay for Open Salon which is another site where my blog gets posted.  It's a forum where writers interact and comment on each others' work.  If you would like to read some of the responses you can go directly to the site:

 How Do You Cerebrate? – Open Call

 On page eight of the introduction to the Autobiography of Mark Twain, Harriet Elinor Smith (one of the editors) speaks of:

 “…..the times Samuel Clemens encountered stretches during which he was unable to proceed, and composition came to a complete halt.  Since at least 1871 he had found it necessary, when his “tank had run dry” in this way, to “pigeonhole” his manuscripts.  And he learned to resume work on them only after the “tank” had been refilled by “unconscious and profitable cerebration.”…..”

 This was the first time I had ever read or heard the word cerebration and thought it might be a misspelling, but after pulling my dictionary off the shelf, I discovered it is indeed a word. 

 Cerebrate:  to use the mind; think or think about

 It’s a decidedly cool word that I intend to use in conversation as soon as possible. 

 I think any writer can relate to Clemens need to pigeonhole his manuscripts when his tank had run dry.  I sometimes sit in front of the computer and wait for inspiration to strike.  Sometimes it does, more often it doesn’t.  Rather than write something of little consequence or thought, I should just remove myself to another location and do some cerebrating. 

 I would love to know the methods Clemens used to replenish his tank.  He mentioned unconscious and profitable cerebration which would lead me to believe he did a bit of daydreaming, found enjoyable distractions, listened to music, smoked a cigar, sipped a bit of whiskey or played with his children.  It took him between three and seven years to complete each of his major books, but once they were finished they were masterpieces.  His cerebration proved to be fruitful and necessary.

 So, I am putting out the call to ask all you fine writers on OS how you cerebrate when your tank has run dry.  Do you drink, sleep, eat, jog, daydream, draw, read, walk the dog, pet the cat, call a friend, go to your therapist, go to a movie, cry, sigh or possibly curse?   You can write a poem or an essay – whatever gets the brain moving.  So here’s the Open Call – How do you Cerebrate?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Against All Odds - Poem

Rita Bourland © 2009
 Against All Odds

The wind is blowing outside
With a fierce, biting intensity,

I hear the insistent
Sound swirling past the windows,
Shaking the shutters,
Rattling the gate,
Sending birds into hidden
Branches of densely
Packed bushes and trees
Which stand bravely upright
Against its
Gusting, thrashing, unforgiving fury,

Winter casts a wide shadow
Over human dwellers
Living on a planet spinning
In a universe full of mystery
That even scientists ponder with awe,

On this wintry night
I ponder many things with awe,

The fact that love remains
Against all odds in a world
Where wind can blow so strong,

The fact that hope remains
In a world where dreams
Can freeze during nights so cold,

The fact that a warm heart
Can keep us from succumbing to
The deepest frost,

We must keep that warmth alive
By lighting a fire
Within the depths of our soul,

An impenetrable fire
Fiercely protecting the essence
Of who we are and who we wish to be,

The wind is blowing outside
But I am calm and sure.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Card 2010

This was our Christmas card this year.  I wanted to share it with all of you.  I wrote the poem and did the illustration based on a stained glass angel I have.  My oldest son used a bit of Photoshop magic to do the coloring and shading.  I wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Silence of snowfall,
Stars shining bright,
Quiet of angels
Watching at night,

Trees all aglow,
A glistening sight,
Candles that flicker
With soft shadowed light,

Wishes are granted,
Wrongs are made right,
Hardship is banished,
At least for one night,

Your heart feels the touch
Of angels drawn near,
Their message is plain,
Their sentiments clear,

They wish you Merry Christmas,
They wish you good cheer,
They wish you God’s blessings
All through the year. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Poem - You'll See How Good I Can Be - A Child's View of Christmas

My husband Mike - 1955 - Evansville, IN
 You’ll See How Good I Can Be
Will we have the biggest tree ever?
Bigger than me, bigger than you?

We’ll see, Mikey. 

Will Santa bring lots of toys?
Will he mom, will he?

We’ll see.

Oh, I hope I get a sled,
And a G.I.Joe,
And a set of Lincoln logs.

Mom, do you think I will?

We’ll see,
You must be good,
Santa’s watching all the time.

Oh, I’ll be good,
I’ll be so very, very good,
You’ll see how good I can be.

You’re a good boy, Mikey
Santa knows how hard you try.

I’ll help with the chores,
I’ll walk Spot every day,
I’ll even make my bed,
Do you think Santa will know?

I’m sure he will.

Christmas is great, mom.
Isn’t it great?
I can’t wait,
Just four more nights
And then

It’s bedtime, Mikey.
Time for your bath
Then I’ll read you a story.

Will you read me
A Christmas Carol?
I promise it won’t scare me this time.

Are you sure?

I’m sure.

Mom, I love you.
I love Christmas, too.
But I love you more.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Poem - Delicious Christmas


The taste of Christmas,
Buttery, sugary,
Treats that melt
In the mouth,
Hazy thoughts,
Sugary highs,
Languorous dreams,
Rivers of chocolate,
Glistening crystals
Of colored sugar
Coating cookies
Crisply baked and shaped
Into stars,
Angels, snowmen,
Christmas so sweet
So rare,
A treat
At this time of year,
Our senses so keen,
Let them swirl,
And twirl,
Making memories
So real that tears
Flow free
At Christmas.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Poem - Not This Year

I was out shopping today and feeling generally cheery and anticipatory of Christmas.  I noticed an elderly man walking slowly past the shops and my thoughts went to those who are alone. Loneliness can affect anyone at any age, but seems to take its biggest toll on the elderly – especially at this time of year.  This poem is for them.

Not This Year

Loneliness doesn’t take a holiday
At Christmas,
It sometimes comes to stay
For days and days,
An unwelcome visitor,
A grumpy guest,
A dour companion,


Hiding behind curtains
Pulled tight,
Casting shadows
In a home where light
Once cast bright
Visions of life,

Where folks drew near,
Shared hugs and cheer,
A time so dear,
But not this year,

For some who’ve lost
Their other half
There’s no one left
To make them laugh
Or care about the ‘morrow,

This time of year
More stark, more real,
It rails out loud,
There is no cheer,
For some
It’s clear,
They miss the
Warmth of love,

The chill has wrapped
Its arms too tight,
Holding out the light
This year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Poem - One Little Angel

One Little Angel

I’m a guardian angel
who’s tired this year;
it’s hard looking down
on a world dark and drear.

So, I’m turning to you,
I’m hoping you’ll hear,
can you give me some help
with the folks I hold dear?

There’s a man with no job
who needs a fresh start,
his family is hurting; 
it tears at his heart.

There’s a woman who lives in a car every night,
can you help her find shelter - a room with a light?

I feel like I’m passing my job off on you,
but one little angel has too much to do.

If you’ll give me a hand and spread love around,
I promise to send out a glorious sound - 

a sound full of hope, a sound full of cheer,
a sound bringing joy for a brighter new year.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Secret Worth Keeping - Finale - Short Story

    That Christmas Eve she met her younger brother and his wife at church.  They were joined by their granddaughter, Elena Forester.  Sophie had always had a great affinity for the child.  She was a quiet, introspective girl with prescient serenity.  They had been together at dozens of family gatherings and conversed about school, pets and books but they had never spent any length of time in deep discussion.
    As the service began, a wail of dismay was heard throughout the congregation.  A child was screaming with alarming vigor and a mother was heard threatening her in a whispered voice. “Be still child or Santa will not come tonight!”
    Sophie couldn’t see the source of the emanation, but Elena quietly left the pew and eased herself toward the offensive mother.  As other people turned and scowled in dismay, Elena fixed a petrifying stare on the woman and stayed just long enough to see her drop onto the pew in a heap of dazed confusion.  Once the woman had gathered her wits, she was quickly ushered out of church with her child in tow.  Her stupor was lifting as she approached the door and those in close proximity heard her say quite lovingly,  “Come along little one.  Let’s walk home through the snow and enjoy this peaceful and beautiful Christmas night.”
    Elena slipped silently back into the pew.  She hadn’t even been missed by her grandparents, but her Great Aunt Sophie had seen her leave and understood. They exchanged a brief, knowing smile, and in that moment Sophie realized her legacy would most certainly continue. 
   Sophie went home that night, put on her favorite flannel nightgown and robe and then slipped into the kitchen to brew a pot of chamomile tea.  She sat on the couch in front of her Christmas tree and turned on a few of her favorite Christmas carols.  As the strains of Silver Bells filled the room, she indulged in a buttery shortbread cookie.  She sipped her tea and happily contemplated what had transpired that evening.  She was looking forward to a long winter’s nap, but before she headed to bed she poured a second cup of tea and placed it on the hearth next to the remaining cookies.  As she headed for the stairs she looked back at her cozy home and at the shimmering lights outside her window. All was right with the world (at least for one night) and her heart was full of peace. 

She had, after all, always believed.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Secret Worth Keeping - Part II - Short Story

    Sophie tried to avoid malls and amusement parks knowing that her powers would be taxed, but occasionally she would go, understanding that she could, in one day, set any number of families on a new course.   There was, however, a ripple phenomenon if she corrected too many families in a day.  The newspaper had once reported that a large number of parents had shown up at the hospital emergency room complaining of odd, nonspecific symptoms like general elation, lightheadedness, disproportionate glee and the urge to hug.  Bemused doctors had sent them each home citing a case of spontaneous joy and prescribing a bit of rest and a hot toddy to calm their frivolous tendencies.
    Sophie’s most satisfying moment had occurred a year ago at Christmas – coincidentally at the same toy store she had recently visited.  She had actually witnessed a mother hitting her daughter for daring to ask for a drink of water.  Sophie fixed her with a punishing stare that could have withered a cactus and watched the mother jerk with a quick spasm.  In the next moment, the mother righted herself, looked around to see if she might have tripped over something, and lovingly looked down at her child.  “Oh my dear, let’s get out of this noisy store and head home for some tomato soup and a nice grilled cheese.”  The girl wiped her eyes, looked up at this mother she barely recognized, and meekly smiled.  The girl gave Sophie a quick glance and gulped back the tears that had always been a part of her young life.
    That was then, but now Sophie had to deal with the meddlesome store manager who was a tad too observant.  They met in person the next afternoon.  The store manager began, “Mrs. Ross, please don’t be alarmed by my request to chat with you.   You seem to be a most gracious woman, but over the years my staff and I have seen several, how shall I say… unusual transformations in our store and you always seem to be in close proximity. Those pesky surveillance cameras catch everything, you know. We have witnessed a remarkable       decrease in crying children and a most unusual shortage of angry customers.   Quite frankly we’re a bit confused and curious.  We, of course, have no proof of someone personally impacting this transformation, but we would love to know if you have any insight into this unusual, uh, spate of good will?”
    Sophie fixed her gaze on the young manager and counted silently to ten.  She had no beef with him nor could she dispute his observations.  The only thing she could do was disrupt his reasoning.  “My dear sir, I admire your keen observations and acute awareness of the mood of your shoppers, but I assure you that I am as perplexed as you by this change in their attitude.  I am an old woman who struggles to get around.  I have always been an observer of the human condition, but I have no power over the demons in others.  If you see a change, then perhaps it has been caused by the wonderful environment you have created for your shoppers.  The aisles are glistening, the cinnamon scent most aromatic and the free cookies and punch quite delicious. Why, it’s the very reason you see me here so often.  Did you ever consider that you might have created the perfect setting for happy customers?”   The manager paused in reflection and then smiled broadly at her.  He began contemplating the ways he could spin this information to enhance his next performance review. Charming toy store creates happy shoppers. 
    After he walked Sophie to the door, he shook her hand and couldn’t resist the urge to give her a hug.  As he turned to walk away, Sophie saw a father angrily shaking a youngster who had dropped a cup of punch on the floor.  Sophie glanced one more time at the back of the retreating manager and then quietly and quickly fixed the problem.
    Sophie drove home relieved that her secret was still intact but knew her time for mending the woes of children was waning.  She fretted about the future and the fact that she had no heir apparent to carry on.  Who would watch over the abused and unhappy children of the world?  Was she their sole protector?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Secret Worth Keeping - Part I - Short Story

My husband and his mother 1957 - A very loved child
This is a short story I wrote a couple of years ago.  I'm going to break it down into three segments and I hope you will stay with me for the conclusion on Tuesday.  I promise it will be worth your while.  And so it begins..... 

Sophie Ross had a secret.  She had been living with her secret for seventy-five years and wasn’t about to divulge it now.  She couldn’t believe how careless she had been in the toy store the other day.  That wretched mother was ignoring her screaming children and yelling at the harried salesclerk over the price of a talking robot.  Who needed a talking robot, she thought.  Sophie had always hated seeing small children in distress, so she merely fixed the problems as they occurred.  Seventy-five years and she’d never been caught and now two days before Christmas she had some store manager calling with a few questions about the incident that had occurred last Tuesday.  It hardly amounted to an incident.  Sophie liked to refer to her intervention as an enlightened involvement.
          Sophie had been born a few years after the stock market crash of 1929 and her birth brought joy and hardship in equal measure to a family suffering from financial and emotional malaise, yet Sophie was wrapped in love.  Even when the house was cold and the pantry bare, she knew love and could feel it in her bones.  People often talked about feeling something in their bones and it became one of the first signs Sophie ever recognized as being part of her gift.
          It was at the tender age of five that she first discovered the depth of her power.  She had been sent to the corner store with her brother to purchase a loaf of bread and a quart of milk for the family.  Along the way, they encountered a         distraught boy and his fearsome father who was dragging his son down the street at a furious pace. Sophie stopped and stared, feeling a deep empathy that brought her to tears.  In the next moment, the child quit crying and pulled himself free.  The man stopped dead in his tracks, suffered a brief, almost imperceptible tic of a seizure, before smiling beneficently at the child and proceeding forward with a decidedly more sensitive approach to parenting.  The boy quickly smiled at Sophie before walking away hand in hand with his father.
          Witnessing hardship in children took its toll on poor Sophie.  She often went home and took to her bed with every bone in her body feeling a deep ache of empathy and exertion.  Having no money for a doctor, her parents brought her broth and hot tea to coax her back to health.  Eventually, her strength would return and she would venture back into the world with renewed optimism.  Sometimes she would go for weeks without an incident, but just as a wisp of happiness would begin to envelop her mood, another unhappy child would loom on the horizon.
          As Sophie grew, the use of her gift became more nuanced.  She could sense the difference between a spoiled child throwing a tantrum and a child who dealt with out of control adults.  She could distinguish between a tired ‘I need a nap’ cry and a jagged cry for help.  Sophie chose her moments and used her power wisely.  She also grew a stronger backbone.  After each incident, she no longer needed to recharge, but found her strength charged by the knowledge that a child’s life had changed.
          Sophie never told her parents, her siblings or her friends.  Truth be told, she would not have been able to explain the how or the why of her gift.  She didn’t dabble in magic but merely affixed her gaze on the sorrow in front of her and the change occurred.  It was hardly quantifiable or subject to dissection; it just happened.  She had tried silly things like turning mice into rabbits and sticks into snakes but no luck.  No, her gift was only useful in the direst of circumstances – a child professing profound distress.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Poem - Wish Yourself Back

Wish Yourself Back 
If you close your eyes
And take a deep breath,
 You can wish
Yourself back to
A time long ago,

A time when fresh cookies were
Baked to perfection,
And a letter
To Santa
Listed each
Toy request,

A time full of mystery,
A time of good cheer,
A time when your hopes for the
Future were clear,

This year take a moment to
Conjure those thoughts -
Take them out,
Dust them off,
Bring them to light,

My wish is that all of the dreams
You hold dear,
Will last beyond
And all
Through the year.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Poem: Say it out Loud

Photo by Rita Bourland - 2010

why is it so hard to reach out,
ask for help,
say, I need you to listen -
to hear me,
really hear me,
really see me?

why is that so hard?
we all walk around
that things are okay
when they aren’t,
I mean,
who is really okay?
and what does okay
really mean?

it’s tough out there;
tough to know who’s on your side,
who’s got your back,
who to trust with trusted information,

sometimes, you just have
to trust that it will be okay,
to say it out loud;
that weighty thing
that’s weighing
on your mind,

if you say it out loud
then it loses power over you,
and you become more powerful
because you’ve trusted another
human being,
and that is really an okay thing to do,

just say it out loud.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Poem: I Just Need to Be - It is Enough

"Just Being" - Central Park Zoo 2007 © Rita Bourland

I Just Need to Be

I don’t need permission
To be
Who I am,

I just need to be,

I don’t need to act
Like somebody else
To fit in some box,

I just need to be,

If I follow my heart,
Sensing the truth,
Then I will be well,

If I listen
To the sound
Deep in my soul,

Then I will be well,
And I will live well,

I just need to be,

And that is enough.

Coming to a Theater Near You - "Arsenic Becomes You"

Mono Lake - California
You, me and everything here on earth is made up of six basic elements:  carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous and sulfur.  This has been undisputed and considered to be irrefutable by virtually every member of the scientific community ad infinitum.  I am no scientist, having studied the things of the mind in college, but I am intrigued by the news today of the discovery of a new bacterium that does not require phosphorous for survival.  This is really BIG news in the scientific world and challenges some very basic assumptions, opening the door to what is being called a shadow biosphere. 
This is where things start to get really interesting.  You see, there is a female biochemist named Felisa Wolfe-Smith who went to Mono Lake in California to sift through the briny substances living there.  Mono Lake is full of water that runs off from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and contains 700 times the amount of arsenic that is considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency.   The water is trapped there so it provides a perfect environment to study unusual critters like the one Wolfe-Smith found.  Her common bacteria friend really likes arsenic.  It likes it so much that it got rid of most of the phosphorous and incorporated the arsenic into its core genetic and energy transfer systems.  I’m not going to go much deeper, because, like I said, I’m no scientist, but I can tell this is a really BIG story because the word shadow biosphere is being thrown around and this means there might be other life forms here on earth.  Aliens from other planets are no longer an issue, they may be living among us – we just don’t have the tools to detect them.  How can this be?  All this time we’ve been looking to Mars, when critters right here might be our biggest threat. And speaking of Mars, take a good look at the picture of Mono Lake.  It doesn't look like anything I've ever seen on earth and it's just a stones throw from San Francisco.  The Midwest is looking pretty good right now.
So, everything you have ever believed about life may have just been challenged.  If you look at a rose, or an elephant, a tree or me you can assume that the six basic elements are there, but these new guys might be lurking right in our midst and be undetectable.  I’m not sure we’re ready for this. 
I’m going to leave the continued research to Wolfe-Smith and her brilliant colleagues, but I’m going to stay on alert for the shadowy figures among us.  These creatures that thrive on arsenic can’t be a good thing for our health, nor particularly intriguing as future friends, but they could be great fodder for the next great B movie.  Who needs “Arsenic and Old Lace,” - the next feature coming to a theater near you might be called  “Arsenic Becomes You.”