Covid Cascade, an essay

It is clear there is more to covid than scientists realized with its evolving variants. Now we have something called Monkeypox, which somehow indicates it comes from contact with monkeys. And it does, sort of. To be better informed about Monkeypox, check out this article from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Photo by Lorenzo Martinez the night we were evacuated.

I am not going to embark on a discourse about viruses and their dangers/impact on society. What I want to ramble on about is uncertainties we all face and how we are changed for better or worse by circumstances beyond our control.

In the recent fires in our area, we were evacuated for eight days from our home. Not because the house and property were in danger, but because the air quality was so dense, we could scarcely breath. And we didn’t know our house would be unharmed, especially when we looked to the hills behind the house and saw great plumes of grey smoke and flames leaping in blended slashes of orange and red and yellow heat.

We’re weeks past the declaration of containment and we should feel at ease, but we don’t. We know many people displaced by loss who are further devastated by flooding that takes destruction to a new level.

And it’s not these destructive fires and floods that weigh on us. It’s the unsettling mountains of shifting dialog about where to go for help and whether or how much help will be available. In the middle and immediately following the fires, the outpouring of love and support were beautifully staggering. Food. Hot meals. A place to stay. Clothing. Resources galore. As time has marched on, the tragedy of many has been left behind. The kindness remains but it is woefully disconnected from the specific needs of those most impacted by the devastation.

The thing is, we have all been hit with multiple tragedies: covid, the deaths of loved ones, illness, a senseless and devastating war in Ukraine, people at our borders struggling and suffering, Monkeypox for crying out loud, violence at every turn, mass shootings, an insensitive and cruel political environment, global warming/climate change… I could go on, and so could you. In a recent sermon, Pastor Katie Palmer likened it to Russian stacking dolls. See a summary here. We are individually at the core of layers and layers of influences over which we have no control, but they affect us in unimaginable ways. No wonder we’re edgy.

The other side of that are the acts of generosity and neighbor helping neighbor, strangers stepping up to help, a community taking in those in need, powerful acts of kindness unselfishly given.

One thing we can agree on: thanks to firefighters and first responders the response to the Hermit’s Peak-Calf Canyon fire was phenomenal and kept a horrific situation from being worse. The community took them in as well.

Personal loss is just that – personal. Typically, most of us have a support network to see us through dark times. Where do we go when so much in the world seems to be so wrong?

It may sound simplistic, but live as best you can. Help in the ways you can. Go to the polls come election time and vote.

THE QUILT

Life is a quilt,
one created over time,
one square, one stitch
placed just so
over weeks,
months, decades.
Sometimes the stitches
knot up, tangled
in unexpected
life events:
death of a love one,
divorce,
too much of this
too little of that.
And then
it smooths out
when new bonds
are made,
babies are born,
life goes on.
The quilt spreads,
covering the span of life,
bringing comfort
and protection.
The quilt of life,
the connectedness
that bridges divides.


Check the BOOKS tab to find out more about my work. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.comhttps://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooksAmazon Author Central. I’m also a member of the Las Vegas Literary Salon, a group committed to sharing the work of local writers. Follow LVLS at lvnmlitsalon.org. Thanks for reading, commenting on, and sharing this post.

Writing: The journey continues

Hello, Writing Friends and the Merely Curious:

Write Now

My Personal Poem a Day Challenge is only in its sixth day, but I’m pleased to say, I’ve written a poem every day since May 1, after having written – along with a bunch of other writers – 30 poems in April. The May 6 poem was inspired by the aroma of cut grass and dandelions that wafted through the window as I drove home from town.

SPRING HAIKU
The smell of cut grass
shot color into my world
and my whole self smiled.

Being inspired in this way reminds me of the recent Dreams and Creativity seminar featuring Jan Beurskens sponsored by the Las Vegas Literary Salon. Writing inspiration comes from many experiences. Dream symbolism is something I’ve been trying to explore since the seminar, but I have yet to remember a dream after the fact.

Sight, smell and emotional response to something seen or experienced is more likely to get my brain firing with ideas.

Mary Rose Henssler, one of the Lit Salon team members, wrote a great “kick-in-the-pants” article on the Salon website. Sometimes, that’s what we need, a little jog to get our writing out of a self-created rut.

Prompts are great ways to stimulate one’s thinking. You might not even use the prompt, but it’s food for your fertile brain so you can come up with something more, something different. If you are stuck, Google ‘writing prompts’ or ‘poetry prompts’ and be ready for the deluge of websites that have tons of them.

Here are a few links to get you started:

700+ Creative Writing Prompts to Inspire You Right Now
500 Writing Prompts to Help Beat Writer’s Block
125 Of The Best Poetry Writing Prompts For Poets | Writer’s Relief
101 Poetry Prompts & Creative Ideas for Writing Poems

I know, daunting, isn’t it? But when you run through these, you see they represent a myriad of life experiences or ideas you’ve probably already had. It becomes doable to give the basic idea legs by adding your own experiences or creative thinking to the mix.

Writing is most often spurred by simply sitting down, and going at it. Writing is work. The more time you put into it, the better you get. You can spend a lot of time getting down the basics of grammar, plot development, character profiles, who’s the good guy and who’s the bad girl (or vice versa), but until you sit down and pound away at the keyboard, all that know-how will be for naught.

The greatest deterrent to writing is – I hate to say it – being afraid your work will never see the light of day, or laziness, only you can decide.

So, write, but after that – or in the process, look for outlets for your work. I have a writing friend who doesn’t believe writers should give their work away, that payment represents validation. “If you don’t value your work,” she says, “how will anyone else?” She has a point. And her next point is as important: getting published is hard work and you have to work hard at it.

Why am I writing a poem a day for 365 days? It’s writing practice, but my plan is to indie publish the best of the poems in a collection. Entrepreneurial publishing is gaining ground and I already have experience in the field. See my author page on this site. Click on the Books tab in the menu for links to the books I’ve written.

It matters not what you’re writing – fiction, nonfiction, poetry – the satisfaction you derive from creating a work from start to finish, is a reward all its own. Avoid apologizing for what you’ve written after the fact. You did it, maybe you made some errors or your work didn’t get the recognition (sales) you hoped for, let it be. Move on. Learn from your fumbles so your next project is an improvement over the last. Every new book, or article, or poem, or short story is its own creation.

There is a book on the market called Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success). I’m not recommending this book because I haven’t read it, but I like the title’s message. Write. Publish. Repeat.

What are your writing tips and tricks? What fires you up for writing. Enter your thoughts in the comments and I’ll share them in a follow-up post.

Happy Writing!

Taking on the Challenge

Write NowI just completed the Writer’s Digest 30-day Poem-a-Day challenge. I posted a poem every day – based on a prompt provided by Robert Lee Brewer – and loved every minute of it. This isn’t the first year I’ve done this challenge, but sometimes I’m playing catch up from the get-go or rushing madly to get all the poems done by April 30. I found doing them day by day so much better and way more satisfying.

So, why can’t I write poems every day the rest of the year? Why do I need a prompt kick in the pants to sit down and compose poetry? It’s not a lack of inspiration. I often convert my spiritual practice of writing devotionals into poetry based on Bible verses. Life generally is full of poetic fodder. With that in mind, I plan to continue the exercise of writing a poem a day until April 30, 2022.

Let it be said, my hand hovered over the delete button as soon as I typed that last sentence, but I stopped myself.

For a variety of reasons, I’ve neglected my writing in recent months. The poem-a-day challenge ignited the flickering embers of banked creativity into a flame. It’s not that I haven’t been writing, but it’s for external projects; not the kind of writing that feeds the author within.

In the comments, let me know what you think of the poetry posted below, three among the thirty I wrote in April, AND if you have a prompt you would like to see a poem about, leave it in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.

Just a reminder, the Las Vegas Literary Salon is publishing a book of short fiction, essays, and poetry. Read more about it here. And now for some Vander Meer poetry.

The Day 4 prompt was to write an active poem. How do you think I did?

POETRY ACTIVE
Why is my brain
a runaway train?
I write my thought,
will it come to naught?

I dither and stir,
mind in a whir.
Words flow out,
like a garish shout!
I want to sleep,
but will they keep?
These words, I pray,
will be good, another day.

The Day 7 prompt was to write a villain poem. I rather enjoyed writing this one, and if you don’t know who Natalie Goldberg is, you might want to check her out. She is a writing guru!

VILLAINS
The thieves of creativity
chew me up and spit me out.
Self-created villains,
gremlins of doubt, fear, anxiety,
chip away at my confidence,
and then, I Natalie Goldberg them,
and write anyway, as though someday,
someone will read my words
and smile… or not.

Day 11 had to be a prime number poem, which of course, begged the question, what the hell is a prime number? Math is NOT my strong suit. As it turns out, 3 is a prime number. So here’s my Haiku in tribute to the prompt.

THREE LINES
Two wings and a beak
tiny talons grip a fence
merry spring arrives.

If you’re a writer, happy writing. I hope this post is an inspiration. If you’re a reader, THANK YOU! Please follow this website, like this post, comment, and if you’re moved to do so, share.


Thank you for being a reader/subscriber. Your likes, shares, and comments are welcomed. Click the BOOKS tab to find out more about my work and to order my books. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central. I may be reached by email at fsvandermeer@gmail.com.

 

OPEN AND CLOSE

Silver Lining

I pray to live into God’s promise,
and embrace the gifts of life and opportunity
with joy and optimism,
living in hope and grounded in faith.

I thank God for mercy and compassion,
the comfort of his love that
brings peace to a troubled soul,
and opens doors to joy.

May I have the wisdom and strength
to close the door on disappointment and anger,
and instead, thank God for love without measure,
forgiveness without limits.

Happy New Year

Happy New YearThe clock striking midnight on Dec. 31, 2020, will not bring about a magical return to “normal,” whatever your definition of normal might be. We still have a largely uncontrolled virus, political stress and strife, and the economy is a mess. Many will start the New Year with a boatload of Old Problems.

So, how do we move forward? Well, that’s somewhat dependent on how one approaches life.

How do you see your strengths and weakness? Are you a naturally confident, can-do kind of person? Are you self-motivated or do you need a kick in the pants to get going? Are you resilient? Empathetic? Optimistic? It has been said that if you believe you will succeed, you probably will. If you think you will fail, you probably will. Between the two, which choice will you make and how will that form your strategy for getting from where you are now, to where you want to be in 2021?

My magic formula for positive change is simple. Show up.

  • Show up for your family when they need you.
  • Show up for friends who are going through tough times.
  • Show up to celebrate important occasions.
  • Show up to help in soup kitchens, or food banks, or clothing drives.
  • Show up in the coffers of a charity that will make life better for others.
  • Show up in local small businesses who are struggling in these tough economic times.
  • Show up for yourself through self-care.

Show up.

When I think of our small community, I’m thankful to report that many of my friends and neighbors have done just that, shown up and delivered. At the beginning of the pandemic, when there were no masks to be found anywhere, folks dusted off their sewing machines and made masks, then gave them away.

Our struggling food banks had lots of support from locals. Was it enough? The need for food and personal items for those affected by job loss or homelessness never goes away. The good news is, people are still showing up to help.

Blankets were given to those who needed them. Elders were given boxes of food and necessities. There is so much more I’m not aware of, but I thank every one of you who stepped up and showed up. The difference you made rings through into 2021 and resonates in the hearts of all you helped.

So, what does “show up” mean? Whatever it means to you, but here are some ideas:

  • It’s the simple things that add up. Samaritan House always needs socks, scarves, woolen caps, and masks for distribution, especially in cold winter months.
  • A telephone call to a shut-in or a friend or a neighbor you haven’t seen or talked to in a while can make a big difference. If you think you don’t have anything to say, be honest and say you just wanted to touch base and say, “Hi,” and let the conversation go on from there.
  • Send a card. In the mail. With a stamp. Or a letter. Or a thank you for a kindness. It’s the connection that matters.
  • The most important truth our friends and neighbors need to know is the very truth we need to remember: we are not alone. We have a tribe, a team, a family, a network, friends we can turn to. Lean on faith and friends as you look to the future.
  • Think of all that you can do and don’t worry about the things you can’t. I don’t know if this is accurate, but I read recently that 97 percent of the things we worry about, never happen. That’s a lot of wasted time that could be spent breathing deep and chilling out and showing up. It doesn’t have to be a big deal to have a big impact.

Please note that when you “show up” in the company of others, be safe and adhere to appropriate protocols to protect yourself and those you encounter: mask up, social distance, wash your hands.

I wish for each of you a blessed and happy and stress-free 2021. When you show up for others it has an amazing effect on you. Try it; you’ll like it.


Thank you for being a reader/subscriber. It is my goal to present informative, interesting, and creative content on this site. Your likes, shares, and comments are welcomed. I am an indie author of six books and two chapbooks of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central. I frequently write about my town, Las Vegas, N.M.Occasionally I use interesting and helpful content from other sources. I also invite guest posts. If you have a topic you would like to share, send to fsvandermeer@gmail.com.

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH

Writer Sharon Vander MeerCovid-the-curse of 2020 may soon be one for the history books as more meds are created to slow the pandemic down and maybe even bring it to a halt. In the meantime, the battle rages about whether to mask or not, gather or not, be vaccinated or not.

It appears abundantly clear that masks do work, social distancing does work, and vaccines can get us back to what passes for normal. Are there risks? Perhaps. One thing we know is that the pandemic has killed more than 1.5 million people worldwide and left many survivors with lingering symptoms. The good news is that 97 percent of affected patients did survive.

For me, 2020 can be distilled down to things more personal. Our best friends died in a horrific accident in February; my son went through multiple health problems and continues to struggle; my husband fell at the end of June and broke his right femur, had surgery, and ended up in rehab for three months. He’s home now but needs in-home care. Mentally he’s 100 percent; physically he fights the good fight… with help. I developed chronic back pain, which is proving to be harder to get rid of than I’d hoped.

This is not the great whine, the 2020 Vander Meer pity party; this is the reality we’re living with. You have your reality: sickness, loss of a loved one – perhaps because of Covid, but likely from some other illness or circumstance; your plans have been harpooned because of the pandemic, moments lost forever, never to be regained. The political absurdities of 2020 I will leave for someone else to talk about, as well as racial inequality, which is a systemic barbed wire woven into the fabric of – not just our nation – but the world.

So, where is hope? It is found in every dollar given to feed the hungry. It is every first responder, nurse, doctor, and health care worker logging hours of overtime (for which they will never get adequately compensated). It is in all the agencies finding help for the homeless and in every person who puts on a mask to protect those he or she may encounter. It is the scientists working on a cure. It’s in the phone call you make to check on a loved one… Hope is everywhere and bolsters us now when we need it most.

The holidays are upon us, and by all accounts, there will be less giving in the gifting sense, but there will be lots of sharing. We have found within ourselves – it would seem – wellsprings of generosity and kindness. Perhaps by entering 2021 with a spirit of hope, we will find in others that something special that sets them apart, and help them celebrate that.

There is a public announcement, I think it originates in Albuquerque, but I’m not sure, that asks everyone to look within themselves and find their unique gift or skill and find ways to put it to work. Giving isn’t just about dollars donated; it’s also about how you engage with your community, following safety protocols, of course. We all have something to give. We can all point to people in our town who have made a difference, whether it’s collecting food for distribution or making masks back when there was a huge shortage. Giving and helping and reaching out are not activities limited to times of trial. My particular local heroes are the visionaries who are working on the natural waterway that runs through the heart of Las Vegas and creating a beautiful Gallinas River Park along the route. While the heavy-duty work is paid for by grants, a lot of volunteers are showing up to help when and where they can.

We have lots of reasons to be hopeful about the future. This year has been a test, but it has not broken our spirits. If anything, it has given us reasons to look around and appreciate living in our small town. It’s not perfect, but nothing is.

There will be less spending this year, so the talking heads say, but may I suggest that whatever you spend this year, try your very best to spend it at a local business. We need them to be strong and able to weather this financial storm. They are braver than any superhero and made of stouter stuff than you can imagine. Let them know you appreciate them. Spend your shopping dollars in Las Vegas in small businesses. Find out more about hometown merchants at the Las Vegas First Business Alliance website lasvegasfirst.org or by emailing lasvegasfirst@gmail.com.

Have a blessed and beautiful Christmas and look to the New Year with hope in your heart.

–Sharon


Thank you for being a reader/subscriber. It is my goal to present informative, interesting, and creative content on this site. Your likes, shares, and comments are welcomed. I am an indie author of six books and two chapbooks of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central. I frequently write about my town, Las Vegas, N.M.Occasionally I use interesting and helpful content from other sources. I also invite guest posts. If you have a topic you would like to share, send to fsvandermeer@gmail.com.


Dance Today; It’s Okay

DanceDelight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Dance today. It’s okay. God knows your joy. Remember its source. He knows your fears, your sorrows, your fury, your confusion. The Lord of all walks with you and lives in you. He is not a distant and unconcerned God; He is the God of possibilities; He is the God of the impossible. Let him in. Take comfort in his presence.

“How can I?” you ask, “My home was washed away in a massive flood!”

“How can I? I lost my job!”

“How can I? My husband/wife left me!”

“How can I in the middle of a pandemic?”

“How can I when racism rages?”

How can you not? The anchor in every storm is the assurance of God’s presence. Studies have shown that those who lean on their faith are more likely to overcome troubling times. Dance, even when the dance is one of sorrow or disappointment or anger. Even in those times know God is present, not to fix what’s wrong, but to give you strength.

Dance on the flames of hate until they are stamped out. Dance so justice is served. Dance so the dying embers of hope spark anew. Dance in memory of innocent men, women and children everywhere.

The music of life is a curious thing and a reminder that we are never alone in our dance. The spirit of hope and the hammer of faith give us strength, wisdom and helpers along the way. We aren’t forgotten even when we forget. God’s love for us is as real as the breath we take in and the breath we let out. God doesn’t care what color we are, what language we speak, the way we worship Him – or not. I believe God is color-blind but very attuned to the melody of renewal.

Dance. The band is in full swing. “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Isiah 55:12


I am an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central


 

TRUST

Trust

 

Bring peace and justice
in equal measure.
Give hope to hearts
broken by hate and fear
so we become alike it this:
we are equal,
we are the same.
Trust sets the standard
for how we live,
giving feet to faith,
hands to helping,
bringing joy to hearts.
In all and with all
we see His promise,
taking us from fear to clarity,
from fury to assurance.
Trust opens doors to possibility.
Break the barriers between us
so we see each other
for who we are,
not the color of our skin –
equal, the same.


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https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks
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