kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Merle Killinger

An elderly woman recently died. She was an active cheerful positive pillar of my church community. Her name was Merle Killinger. And I feel bad that she has passed, not only because I’ll miss her. I will. But also because I wanted to get to know her better. And I meant to. I had every intention of doing just that. For months, I had been telling myself that I should visit her, take lunch over to her house and just sit with her awhile, get to know her better, glean all I could from her life experience-earned wisdom. Merle was a writer. A poet. I knew I could learn from her. And I didn’t even realize she was a teacher until I read her obituary. I wanted to spend time with Merle. Keep her company for an hour or two. Maybe make her day and bring a smile to her face while she did the same for me. Merle had recently mailed an anniversary card to Bob and I, and I kept meaning to thank her for it – next time I saw her. Merle had several health issues and was often hospitalized. With each hospital admission, I had wanted to go see her. I told myself I would. I know firsthand how much these visits can mean. I truly intended to go to that hospital and visit her, but . . .

But I never did any of that. Life happened each day and I never took the time. I never made the effort. I guess I always assumed there’d be another day.

And now I’ve lost the opportunity. I’m sad about that.

Friends, time is fleeting and fickle. We can’t afford to put off until later what we feel called and compelled to do today. Just make the time and do it now. In the end, relationships and how we connect with people are all that really matter.

So here’s to Merle. I hope I get to know her better – someday – on the other side.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Culture Fest Louisiana

Another weekend, another fascinating festival here in Lake Charles.

Whereas most festivals around the state celebrate some inherently traditional Louisiana something or other, this inaugural gathering of Culture Fest Louisiana focused on the global diversity represented in southwest Louisiana.

Countries from around the world, including many in Central America, the Middle East, and Asia, were featured. Indian women in silky saris, Mexicans in brightly-colored serapes – they all displayed their native clothes, food, music, dance, and traditions.

While I perused the displays of the many different countries, I listened to a lively steel drum band. They were really good, and I would have guessed they were straight from the Bahamas if they hadn’t been a bunch of white guys.

Last night, Bob and I caught some of the performances on the outdoor stage. We watched some Vietnamese girls do a traditional dance with those conical straw hats. It was unique, creative, and beautiful.

As I left the festival today, I heard a bagpipe bellowing from the Civic Center balcony. Guess there was a bit of Scotland there, also.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Guest Blogging This Week

I often guest blog on other sites.

My writing buds, the Bayou Writers, have a blog. Check out my new post here.

LitStack is a literary website -- for the love of all things wordy. A great place to find book reviews and other publishing industry news. Read my most recent book review here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

French Immersion

You know I write extensively about the unique culture of Louisiana. I learn something new and interesting every day. Yesterday I attended The Great Acadiana Awakening, a traveling festival celebrating the native French language, culture, and heritage. Naturally, I heard music there -- music is a vital integral part of life in Louisiana -- including elementary kids from several local school singing songs in French. They are part of a special program in our parish called French Immersion. Local readers, bear with me. This may seem like no big deal to you. But to my non-Louisiana readers, this may be a fascinating concept. It certainly is to this Yankee. I'm not sure of the exact numbers, but 2-3 elementary schools, a couple middle schools, and no more than 1-2 high schools in Calcasieu Parish offer this voluntary opportunity. The purpose of this program is to help preserve the French heritage that is so unique to the state of Louisiana. For the students in French Immersion, ALL classes except reading and English are conducted 100% in French. Imagine that! Imagine learning French in science, math and social studies classes. These students are fluent in French by the fourth grade. Over 500 children in the parish participate in this program. Cool, huh!

Here's something I do not know, and maybe someone local can fill me in. Is this program unique to Calcasieu Parish, or is it statewide?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Lois Greenfield -- Photographer of Dance

There's a fantastic exhibit currently at Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center, Lake Charles. In "Resonating Fields," acclaimed photographer Lois Greenfield has captured dancers in motion. A photographer freezes a fraction of a second in time, yet Greenfield's shots masterfully illustrate movement and action. Whether you are a fan of dance or not, I encourage you to see this show (through November 12). Greenfield's work will amaze and inspire you. For more information, check out the Lake Charles Civic Ballet blog, where I guest blogged last week, October 4. Find Lois Greenfield's website here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I don’t often discuss books on my blog. But it’s not often I am so touched by a book that I feel compelled to talk about it.

I’ve been a book reviewer for years, most recently at a literary website called LitStack. This is how the book Seeds, by Richard Horan, came to my doorstep, waiting to be read. It’s a non-fiction book, a memoir of sorts, about the author’s journey to travel around the country collecting seeds from the trees that have influenced notable figures in American history, primarily literary heroes, but a few entertainment celebrities, as well. You can read my book review here.

I’ve always loved trees. I can’t think of any place where I feel more at peace, more relaxed and at home, than in the middle of a lush green forest. Trees are so dependable. (Barring a hurricane or chainsaw, that is.) They’re always there, standing guard, quietly observing, often for hundreds, even thousands of years.

Horan’s book got me thinking about the trees in my own life that have influenced or otherwise made an impression upon me. Mostly the trees at my grandparents’ houses come to mind. Both sets of grandparents lived in the country. At my mom’s parents’ home, I remember two gigantic weeping willow trees, their unseen roots surely stretching beneath the ground to the nearby pond. Many a picnic and photo session took place beneath those behemoths. There was an orchard – peaches and plums – but I especially recall picking bucketfuls of sour cherries with my grandfather from an old but determined tree, its branches gnarly but its yield prolific. At my dad’s parents’ place, a sturdy maple tree stood like a sentinel beside the driveway. During my entire childhood, I recall a swing, handmade of wood and rope, hanging from a tall branch. At my own childhood home, two impressive pines grew near the property line. Beneath their boughs, I played with my friends. One low branch was the perfect height to practice chin ups and pull ups for those dreaded presidential physical fitness tests in the 70s. We buried my first pet, a cat named Minnie, at the base of one of these trees, because she loved to climb them. Atop a hill near that home, a boyfriend once carved our initials into a tree. I wonder if it’s still there. And I remember fondly, this time of year, scouring the woods and collecting perfect leaves of red, orange, and yellow. We’d bring them home and iron them between sheets of waxed paper. That’s one thing I miss, living in the south – the colors of autumn.

Years ago, I wrote this poem about a stand of virgin timber in a place very dear to me, Swallow Falls State Park, near Oakland, Maryland. This poem has won awards and been published in a couple different places.

River Falls

The air smells of childhood memories,
wood smoke and wildflowers,
dampness, primordial decay.
Distant sounds of rushing, roaring river beckon.
Pine needles cushion rocky, rooted paths.
Slippery sage moss clings to
icy trickling springs.
Ancient ledges beg exploration.
Towering virgins,
white pine and hemlock,
ache for long lost solitude,
reluctantly share
their sanctuary.

I have a stamp with which I emboss my name into books that I know I’ll want to keep indefinitely. I try not to be a pack rat, so very few books I read are stamp-worthy.

Tell me about the trees that have been special or noteworthy in your life.