Mary Beth Writes

This is how far we drove going to and coming back from New Mexico.

  • Home to Keokuk, Iowa – 309 Miles
  • Keokuk to Oklahoma City – 580 Miles
  • OK City to Santa Fe, NM – 534 Miles
  • Santa Fe to Alamogordo, NM – 218 Miles
  • Alamogordo to Dalhart, TX – 375 Miles
  • Dalhart, TX – Topeka, KS – 466 Miles
  • Topeka – Home – 614 Miles

Which is the backstory of three fables I have written.  We were usually driving 60 MPH on 2-lane highways because that’s how we roll. We drove through grasslands and deserts and on long straight highways bordered by windmills, cows, and grain elevators. We never got bored of flat topography, blue mesas, endless sky. There was time to imagine.

It felt as though the plants and land and clouds and dry desert scents had their own stories to tell. So even though none of this makes tit-for-tat sense, here is my first fable. There will be one tomorrow and Sunday, too.  Hope you like them.

.....

Ocotillo is a desert cactus with tall green stems. Other names for this plant that I have heard or read are slim wood and candlewood. Ocotillo cactuses are common in the Sonoran and Chihuahua deserts of southern Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, and California, as well as in northern Mexico.

Ocotillo is more closely related to tea and blueberries than to cactuses! For much of the year, the plant looks like a desiccated collection of spiny dead sticks. Then, with rainfall the barren stems of become plump with moisture, leaves appear, and bright crimson flowers bloom. The plant may grow to a height of 30 feet. The flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds and native carpenter bees.

The word Ocotillo is an Americanism of a Mexican-Spanish word related to ocote - the Nahuatl word for pine. Ocotillo is four cultures in one word.

Tilly was a plain child in a beautiful and popular family. All her siblings were a little taller and had more lustrous hair and quicker smiles. They earned high-B averages in school and were far more successful on sports teams than Tilly.

Sometimes people would sigh at her.

“Tilly, did you just trip over the cat again? Stop reading while you walk.”

“No, Tilly, you cannot wear red pants and a red dress, with red shoes and red socks all at once. You look like a fire hydrant.”

“Why are always you so quiet? Speak up! Where is your homework? Why did you hand in a report on desert plants when the assignment was Modern Inventions of Modern America?

When Tilly became an adult she took a job as a caregiver and she was very good at this. The people she worked for had challenges or illnesses or were frail so they were not in need of tall people who knew jokes and could ski competitively. Because their lives were somewhat limited, Tilly could help make it bigger. All her clients thought she was wonderful.

Being appreciated made her more confident about herself. She began to laugh more. She had good ideas to make people lives more satisfying, such as she often made cookies with her clients, which made everyone slightly chubbier and a great deal happier.

One day an older lady asked Tilly to help her sort out her jewelry and hair things collected over her whole life.

“Tilly, I’m not going to live another 87 years. Could I give you some of these things?”

She gave Tilly some chipped fake garnet rings and red sequined necklaces and small ruby-looking barrettes and Tilly laughed as she put them all on over her mousy brown hair and pale green scrubs.

Right then the woman’s young grandson walked in the front door. He stopped, his mouth agape at the beautiful woman with fluffy hair and eyes that sparked like raindrops and bits of red flashing all over her.

Just about everyone is waiting to bloom.

 

Comments

Ohhhh. I like this! Love the punchline “just about everyone is waiting to bloom”.

OH! Yes! Patricia

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Three Things

4/20/2024

Three Things except it’s really more than that.

1. Earlier this year I read these two books by Palestinian writers and I recommend both. If you’ve read good books by Palestinian writers, maybe tell us about them in the comments?

The Confluence

4/17/2024 

(I’ve written about this trip before but it’s been a long time.)

In 2000 we did a wilderness canoe/kayak trip on Utah’s Green River. We did this with our three kids plus friends and their two sons. Our youngest was nine, the oldest was 16, and our combined three boys were slapdash goofballs.

Three Things / Story, Eclipse, Brando

1. I scheduled my Substack story to go out at 8AM this morning. I just looked to see why it didn’t show up and it says it is going to be sent at 8:49 tonight. I’m going to leave it like that. Maybe 9PM on a weekend night is a good time to send short fiction. Let me know if you have an opinion.

2. I read this quote by Marlon Brando who said this early in his career. “I’m not afraid of anything and I don’t love money.”

Even though this is probably not exactly true of me and you, I do love the bravado.

Peace Like a River / Book Report

4/3/2024 She Writes

I just finished reading Peace Like a River by Leif Enger and I am going to talk about it for a little bit before I forget how profoundly interesting and evocative this book was and is, at least to me.

I get emails from Boswell Bookstore (2559 N Downer Ave in Milwaukee). They host artist events pretty often and Monday evening, April 15th Len and I will be there for the Author Evening with Leif Enger. You can look up more of the details if you are interested. (Tickets are free but you need to reserve them.)

My Grandkids & 'Wandering Stars'

4/1/2024

The past month has been jam-packed. The week in Mineral Point. Len’s two-day seminar in Chicago. Last week we had various grandkids here for three overnighters and yesterday our family came to Easter dinner here in our house which was clean after a week with grandkid overnighters so you know that was a piece of cake. Len smoked two hams (yes, hard to keep them lit) and I made the largest amounts of from-scratch scalloped potatoes plus macaroni and cheese that I have ever made. As in, I grated four pounds of cheese Saturday afternoon. “On Wisconsin.”

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