Emma walked to the old Catholic church. Built of logs in the 1800’s, it was one of the first buildings constructed in the valley. The town was now deserted, everyone home with their families. There were no cars in the parking lot; midnight mass wouldn’t begin for a few hours. She could see the soft glow of the stained glass windows through the falling snow. She came every Christmas Eve, not because she was a devout Catholic—hardly. She had been the number one doubter in her family. She came to remember her mother and Gran. Her mother had never missed a service and had been part of the League of Catholic Women. She had raised her children with a good deal of love and guilt. Gran, on the other hand, was an old-country Catholic who, along with all the religious holidays, celebrated the solstices and equinoxes and believed in the pre-Christian goddess who had become Mary after centuries of matriarchy. Emma, who was quite the intellectual feminist in her day, liked the fact that a female deity was even included in Catholicism. She didn’t believe literally in the virgin birth, but she loved the story of it. Once she had asked Gran, demanding an absolute in her teenage angst, what was the truth about religion? “It’s what is in your heart, Emma. If it’s a debate between your mind and your heart, go with the heart.”
In her heart she knew she believed in the “Great Mystery,” whatever it was, and still she loved the quiet beauty of a church. She took off her coat in the vestibule. How lucky, she thought, to be the only one there. She entered the church and paused, taking in the smell of the damp hymn books and melted wax. Incense lingered in the corners; pine boughs were strung along the pews. She passed by the bowl of holy water and moved to the front near the altar. She slid across one of the polished wooden benches and sat for a moment. She was always grateful that the little church had no crucifix, only a small wooden cross. She vividly remembered the large crucifix in St. Joseph’s cathedral in San Francisco, the statue of Jesus, his face writhing in pain, realistic blood painted on his palms and feet. Here, Emma looked at the Madonna of the Mountain, a simple but delicately carved wooden statue, the compassionate face of Mary gazing down at her baby boy.
She got up and moved to the side altar, lighting three candles, her own personal ritual. One for the past, and all of the loved ones who had crossed: Mother, Father, Gran, her husband, Ronnie, and their child, Theo. The old pain filled her momentarily. She lit the next candle for the present, asking for peace on earth. Lastly, she lit a candle for the future, hoping for a good outcome for Briar, and asking for guidance in the young heart of Cat.
She was so lost in thought that she didn’t hear Liam’s quiet footsteps coming down the aisle. But she realized that someone had sat down behind her. She remained facing forward, her eyes closed, then turned to go back to the pew. Liam looked into her face, the warmth of recognition spreading across his mouth.
“Emma,” he whispered. She started down the aisle, but he signaled her to come to him. Her legs were quivering as she slid in, near him, but far enough away that they weren’t touching. “We have to stop meeting like this,” he laughed quietly, taking her hand. She gently pulled away to brush hair out of her eyes.
“Merry Christmas, Liam.” Only silence moved between them. Finally he said, “Did you know that my mother’s uncle carved the Madonna of the Mountain
about a hundred years ago? She’s made of white oak, and the child is cedar. Behind her cloak on the back right side he carved an acorn, a symbol still important to the Green River tribe. Come with me; I’ll show it to you.” She felt light-headed as she followed him around to the back of the Madonna. “Right here, see it? And over here he carved a horse with wings.” She bent to see the cross-hatched design.
They both stood up. He looked down at her, his eyes serious, questioning. His braid fell over the front of his broad shoulder. “Emma, oh, God forgive me, but...”
She was torn, ripped down the middle, panicked. Her heart wanted him so badly, but her mind screamed, Don’t! Candlelight flickered a red warning.
“Emma...please,” he whispered, close to her face, “can’t we just...talk about...”
Her resistance faltered; her knees went weak; she couldn’t look at him. “I don’t know...it’s been so long and I’m afraid...”
He smelled of soap and cedar. He took her hand and it burned into her palm. The quiet of the church seemed deafening. Then suddenly she was in his arms, his mouth warm on hers. She pulled back, but the old hunger consumed them as he kissed her neck and moaned, “Oh, God, Emma.” The sweet strength of him wrapped around her as he kissed her forehead and cheeks and her mouth again.
They heard a car door slam and then another. Father Lawrence’s voice called out, “Michael and Billy, you look festive. Do you think you can remember the words?” As the priest entered the church, Emma was walking up the aisle and Liam was seated in a pew. As she brushed past the priest her eyes were downcast and her face flushed.
“Merry Christmas, Father,” she murmured. “Ah, Emma,” said Father Lawrence, “is your annual visit over already...?
A young woman. A calculated act. The close knit bond of extraordinary women leading ordinary lives. True is a stunning tale, which beautifully weaves these dynamic characters and their pristine wild environment, their families and the animals they love, into what undoubtedly becomes a story one will never forget. “A lesson in healing, strength and courage, and above all, the magnificence of true friendship."
Sunday, December 8, 2013
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
After coffee, she put on her hooded flannel jacket and went out to the pasture. Mav was inside his little barn, head down, obviously asleep. “Hey, buddy, come and get your flake.” He looked up with a low nicker. “Here, have some horse granola too. It’s going to storm, don’t you think?” she asked, pouring oats over his hay. She leaned into him and he returned the weight of her affection, then began to chew.
She walked to the garden and steadied the gate banging in the wind. Putting the garden to bed was always such a sad day. The winter garden seemed almost a graveyard, holding memories of the season’s yields and its idiosyncrasies—the volunteer cilantro that had pushed up in all the corners, and the weird-looking hard green squash with little frowning frog faces. She’d thought that the seed packet said “Patty Pan.”
Zipping up her jacket and putting the hood over her bed-messed hair, she walked the rows, saying goodbye. The rosemary looked as if it wanted to spend the winter on a sunny Greek island. The sunflowers bowed low on their spindly stalks, their hearts an empty geometry of brown disks. The green beans, now a deadened rust, slumped over the trellis as if admitting defeat. The sky darkened even more. An unclaimed melancholy swept over her as she stared at the tomatoes, withered and pleated, deflated like the shriveled balls of old men.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
The following is what I believe to be the soul of the story...
True is about life and love in all of its beautiful, strange, chaotic, romantic, maternal, collective, desperate, misguided and unconditional aspects. It is about passages, the journeys over a lifetime through childhood, coming of age, womanhood, marriage, mothering, midlife and the great beyond. It is about sisterhood and friendship, our connections to our families, the men in our lives, our animals and most importantly ourselves. True is about the beautiful and the terrible in the same breath. How hardships and illness and abuse and violence and the longing for peace bring us through the fire, scarred but transformed and more whole than we could ever imagine by the realization that we create our own reality. It's a choice, we are either alone or all one...True is about bigotry, narrow mindedness and seeing through the filters of our own convoluted, tunnel vision. It is about young people feeling worthy enough to receive love and old people having to let go of all they have known, and all the between from birth to death. True is about nature, the wild, pristine, raw preciousness inherent in our earth's systematic, artistic perfection. It is about the kindness of humanity and how our deep bonds matter. It is about being connected and fully present in our quest for honest wisdom. True is about love and being true, being free, staying wild and holding fast.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
~MelindaWrite Writers Write!I have been very caught up in the online marketing of True doing all a traditional publisher used to do. Gleaning articles, acquiring reviews, finding creative ways to advertise without money. All the time wondering about time lost, knowing that the most satisfaction comes from creating new stories, that writing is its own reward, and success has many definitions. Sometimes I ponder the energy and time spent with the iPad and look outside and see Summer blazes in all her green glory across the mountains and in the valley. The greenery so hot and bright it almost hurts ones eyes.The garden just started, grows with the promise of an abundant harvest. Walking up the mountain, the wildflowers sway in a warm wind scattered across the forest’s floor like random jewels. The horses already fat and glossy cruise the pasture grazing as if there were no tomorrow. If only this moment could be frozen in time. The little boys run and squeal through the sprinklers, their small bodies tan and strong. “Gramma, Gramma” they call as they rush to me, their arms full of red, pink and white peonies, “for you” they call. Their innocent faces full of excitement and the pure unconditional love all children possess.Yes, I know so well to bottle this moment and remember the peace of here and now for outside the world turns in a most precarious way. The powers that be cruel and dreadful, the lives of so many a living hell, our government bereft of heroes attempting to run our bodies, our food supply, willing to prostitute and rape our gorgeous planet. Never has storytelling been more important as we teeter on this unstable time in history. We must write to tell the human condition, to inform, to inspire and burn the candle of hope for the lost and unhealed.There is a reason why there are more humans writing than at any other time. We have so much to say, so much to teach and empower. It doesn’t matter whether we write about the past, the present, or the future as we learn from every time. The competition to be read or published is greater than ever, but with the world wide web we can reach out and communicate like never before. Humans are reaching out, speaking up, giving ourselves to educate and inform, and once informed to ACT. Deepak Chopra says the paradigm on the planet will happen because of information on the internet.So as I reflect in gratitude for my fortunate lifestyle and loved ones, I know that it is ever more important to write about the lives of others, perhaps not so fortunate who are learning and willing to heal and inspire and reach out to humanity in anyway they can. So write writers! A poem, a story, a novel, a film, send it out without regard for failure or acceptance. Words touch people deeply. As we write, delving into our own psyche, looking at what sparks us, even our inner darkness, When our character fails or triumphs we heal! It spirals outward and the writer has no idea of the miraculous circumstance when someone reaches into their library’s free box and reads a story that will ultimately change their life forever.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Established in the 1800’s, the small finger of land cradled a varied terrain. At the eastern end of the farm a rivulet wound through red clover pastures and stands of tall oaks. The middle ground was wooded, arched over with both young and mature fir, cedar, and pine. The small forest sheltered deer, grey squirrel, fox, coyote, raccoon, skunk, opossum, and even bear and mountain lions in search of water. Many birds, both native and migratory, traveled the tree tops —woodpeckers, jays, robins, hawks, turkey vultures, ravens and crows. Canada geese nested near the creek during spring flows.
Just beyond the woods, up over a green hummocked pasture, the farmhouse knelt in an old apple orchard. The well kept, two-story, white clapboard house had old bubbled glass and double hung windows framed by faded blue shutters. A gnarled elm leaned into the front porch. The house, more like a cottage, was squat, built on a low foundation of creek rock. A weathered shingle roof peaked up and over the dwelling. Ivy twined itself around the stone chimney. Chinese lanterns, hollyhocks and bleeding hearts grew in the dooryard where a double-dutch back door opened into a large kitchen. Big beams hung with drying flowers and herbs spanned a low pine ceiling. Baskets of ripe fruit and vegetables lined the pocked wooden floor. White cotton curtains hung in the windows. In one corner stood an original cream and green wood cook stove that warmed the drafty room on cold mornings. The chunky stove had four burners and an oven, which came in handy for cooking during the frequent power outages in winter. A round table and four chairs looked out to the orchard and the rivulet.
The kitchen opened into a long, narrow dining room which held only a table and chairs and an oak hutch. The room’s large window faced the garden. A bedroom and bath sat back under the eaves. French doors framed the entrance to the living room, bright with sunlight reflecting off the low cream ceiling. The room looked out to the front porch and the orchard beyond. Comfortable overstuffed furniture circled the simple stone fireplace. Deep chocolate chenille sofas and love seats rested on a flowered wool rug. Tucked back under the stairs was a small office area. Upstairs there were two bedrooms and a bath. A long low library which also served as a guest room fronted the house.
A few flagstone steps away from the back porch was a large garden that looked west to the Serpentine Mountains. Rather than being laid out row by row, the garden was a lush impressionistic tangle of flowers, herbs, and vegetables.
Emma stood under an umbrella of sunflowers squinting into the sun. She reached up, taking the prickly stalk into her hand, which caused the heavy flower head to shower black seeds on her silver streaked hair. Her strong legs flexed as she snipped the flower and put it in her basket. As she turned towards the gate a large green and gold dragonfly hovered before her, then lighted on the sunflower she had just cut. Slowly, she extended her hand, the Emerald looked up at her and cocked its head. She hummed as she stroked its back, where delicate, copper wings met the long body. A moment of stillness, then the dragonfly levitated and was gone.
Three cats, a long-haired black one, a calico, and a tortoise shell, meowed at her feet. “It’s coming,” she told them as she closed the gate. Before going in, she paused to look at the orchard, the weighted branches bent with red and gold apples, the same trees that she had climbed each summer of her childhood. Every year when school was out her parents would travel from San Francisco to visit her aunt’s family in Green Valley, and Emma would be allowed to stay all summer. Every day, up with her cousins at dawn, they combed the vast mysteries of the farm, exploring its blackberry brambled tunnels, treetops and creek beds, its animals and insects.
In her early forties Emma had the opportunity to buy the farm after her aunt died. She’d been ready to leave her busy nurse/midwife practice in San Francisco. Green Valley and its familiar roots had called to her at the right moment. She’d loved her life at the farm the last fifteen years. Working out of the house and keeping her practice down to three days a week allowed her to have the time—although there was never enough—to care for the farm and garden and animals. A tremendous amount of work for a single woman but, she thought to herself, I wouldn’t change a thing...well, maybe one thing.
Saturday, March 2, 2013
I am off to Texas soon where I will be signing books and speaking at Hasting's Book Store in Midland and at the Unitarian Universalists Church. These events are fun, informative, and lucrative, not to mention that I get to meet other writers. Last year in Ukiah, CA at Mendocino Books I was introduced to a gentleman in his eighties who gave me a hand written poem:
Thursday, January 10, 2013
In late December I was gifted with an amazing review from IndieReader.com (see True by Melinda Field). Indie Reader is perhaps the most supportive, informative, and elegant site for independent readers and writers. I can't wait to put my "Indie Reader Approved" stickers on my books...
I have new 5 star reviews on Amazon...We Indie's are spreading our words and wings and the evolving publishing model is taking notice. As much as we love to hold books in our hands, smell their musty, acrid pages and fall asleep with their sweet weight on our chests, the E-Book will really come of age in 2013. Mark Coker, creator of Smashwords has an excellent article predicting trends for the new year (www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-coker/2013).
I just finished Barbara Kingsolver's latest Flight Behavior. She really took on a huge agenda in this story which includes, culture wars, education, and global warming. Her quirky main character, Dellarobbia Turnbow will be a favorite. To see a wonderful live interview with the author go to goodreads.com and look for "live with Kingsolver video."
I am working away on the sequel to True. It is five years later in the Green Valley. All the characters have written me detailed letters letting me know their hopes, dreams, sorrows, and lessons in the next book. Although it feels great to be with them again, I'm still working on another novel called Hold Fast.
Oh there is not enough hours in the day to care take, promote, write, and dream...I'll be touring in Texas in March and San Francisco in May. I love that spoken word and meeting interesting and wonderful people. It's always good to come down off of the mountain and travel beyond the pine curtain now and then. I will leave you with a poem from my Chapbook titled Leafbite.