Review: The Best of Write Action 2

The Friends of the Library, a quarterly newsletter of The Brooks Memorial Library (Brattleboro) graciously printed my review of The Best of Write Action 2: The Tenth Anniversary Collection. Having gotten nurtured (and a little spoiled) by the writing community of Windham County (Write Action’s main service area), I was happy to have had the opportunity not only to read the current works of my friends, but to tell the world about it.

Thanks to Judith Bellamy, Jerry Carbone, and Arlene Distler for making this possible.

The full newsletter (Spring 2011) can be found HERE. I’m on page 6.


What ARE You? A Granola?

Today’s Principle: Least Effort

The principle of Least Effort maintains that as long as one is engaging in doing what one truly loves, the rewards will come with little or the least amount of effort. Sometimes one will wonder why they’ve deserved to be so lucky.

I recently discovered the joyous ease of making granola. I’ve been working with Mark Bittman’s basic recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I’m not a strict recipe adherent, and so have made several variations on his formula until settling on my own version, which yields a loose (non-clumpy) blend of nutty, tart and sweet flavors.

Granola is something I ate often when I could, but I found it quite expensive, even in bulk at the local food co-op. So even though the combination of ingredients themselves is not cheap, I find the homemade variety much more satisfying to eat.  I keep my granola in a reused plastic tub with a tight-fitting lid. Every time I open it, the aroma of toasted oats, nuts and berries reminds me of the joys of living in Vermont. During a snow storm like this, I often need reminding.

[photo by Daniel W. Barlow]

The recipe for this week’s batch goes something like this:

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First Christmas reprint in The Commons

My blog post about the first Christmas we spent in America was reprinted in The Commons, a weekly in my hometown of Brattleboro, Vermont. Thanks to Jeff Potter for finding it worthy.

(It’s on the last page of the Holiday supplement, pg 20 of the PDF)

[I’m coloring in a picture dictionary (my favorite book) during our English class at SIT in Brattleboro]

24 Hour Comics: A Personal Story

August 27, 2005 was a perfect summer day in Brattleboro, Vermont. The fog cleared off early, and local residents were treated to warm breezy weather as they went about their normal Saturday routines: Farmer’s Market on Route 9, yardsaling, or lazing about listening to Car Talk on VPR.  It was the kind of day that warmed rocks and rustled leaves.

Dan and I (we’d been dating a year at this point) decided to go down to the Brattleboro Museum and Arts Center to join in their first (and only) ever 24 Hour Comics Challenge. Dan, the comics geek, knew more about it than I did and had expressed interest in going. Me? I just like to do fun, off-center things. So I said I’d go with him. Neither of us draw, but it was supposed to be a judge-free zone.

About 50 amateur and professional cartoonists of all ages showed up, and most of them stayed through the night and into the purpling morning. We spread ourselves between the various rooms of the museum, even sprawled out on the lawn and drew by starlight and streetlamp. The participants ranged from fresh out of high school to nearing retirement, and we worked on paper (most of us) or digitally. We went across the street to the Brattleboro Food Co-op for fortification. Some of us went home for sleep only to return later, others bundled up in our sleeping bags in a dimly-lit quiet corner. The rest of us (me included) toiled away ceaselessly.

A comics jam from the early days of Trees and Hills, courtesy of Daniel Barlow

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My First Christmas

How does one forget 30 years’ time?  It happened to me.  During a recent conversation, I realized that my family had been in the US for 30 years now, as of this winter.  As of Thanksgiving, actually.  I have no recollection of our arrival in America, which city we landed in, how long we waited in lines, or who met us at the airport.  How strange it must have felt, scanning the metal and concrete buildings for something familiar: a scent of greenness, sun-warmed wood, broad brown faces and dark, tender eyes.  Maybe my parents we listening for a few words they might understand.  I have no memory of any of this.  I imagine I was probably either fast asleep or crying.  Crying in my sleep, perhaps.

What I know from others is that it was a very cold winter.  There was already snow on the ground.  Snow.  The world must have unzipped itself in my parents’ minds when they stepped into the icy air outside.  To grow up all your life in a tropical village you’ve never dreamed of leaving, then muck through the detritus of war to end up in a crowded refugee camp.  So many bodies, so many lives on hold.  And then to make the impossible decision: to leave, possibly forever.  This haunts me when I think about it.  The pain of making such a choice.

But soon we were flying like a bird through the air.  And then landed at the noisy airport, some Americans coming towards us, trying to pronounce our names.  And probably somebody bowed.  And then perhaps someone said, “Sabaidee.”  And a new life began.  The world expanded all around us.

from The Brattleboro Reformer, copyright may apply.

from The Brattleboro Reformer, copyright may apply.

Our sponsors tried their best to teach us English, show us how to work the light switches, the faucets and toilets.  The stove.  They helped arrange jobs for my parents–a janitorial position for Dad, and a bakery job for Mom.  They also gave us our first Christmas.  I wish I remembered it.  Perhaps someday it will all flood back.  But for now, all I have is this newspaper photo of Dad with a box in his hand.  I think the spine says “Monster Puzzle”.  Maybe it’s for my brother or myself.  My mother is letting Dad choose and open the gifts.  My brother and I are on the floor, waiting for something.  What?  Our small tree is leaning under the weight of handmade ornaments.  Hanspeter, one of our sponsors, leans in, elbow on the table.

I gather it was a joyous party, our family the honored guests.  There was probably cider and cookies, nuts and cheese.  Some coffee.  I’m sure it exhausted us, and confounded us.  We’d been in America for a month.  We were the only Laotian refugees in Brattleboro, though that would soon change.  And though we were far from our family, we’d found ourselves in a close group of people who seemed to love one another.  They didn’t speak our language (except for a few) and they had no reason to love us.

I suppose that was the greatest gift we received.  Love.  Welcome.  Hope.  Kindness.  A Future.  All those new friends we’d made in the early 80’s were so generous.  Beyond the gifts of clothes and toys.  Beyond what we can touch.  They gave us their hearts.  I speak for my entire family when I say we are truly grateful.