MIRACLES


MIRACLES

By Sharon Stevens

As I am writing this tomorrow will celebrate the 4th of July. Amazing that it comes around every year at the same time of the month, year after year. Each cycle falls on a different day, but the meaning is the same regardless whether it occurs during a week day or weekend. Red, white and blue are the same colors through centuries and generations. Uncle Sam never ages.

I read General Colin Powell’s Fourth of July wish, and was caught by something he wrote. “Wishing you all a safe and happy 4th of July as we once again celebrate the MIRACLE of our democracy, and the WISDOM of our founding fathers.

Miracle…Wisdom…Two words that you wouldn’t associate with fireworks and festivities. But then again these expressions are the perfect reminder of why we celebrate our American Flag and our Freedom. I was rereading the Bill of Rights and Constitution and Declaration of Independence, and by jove, these are miracles. When you think of what it took for a group of men to come together for the Common Good, and then to write the first draft, and the second, and the third until they got it right, you can appreciate what a miracle this truly is. These people left the comforts of their home and the love of their families to travel, and then to argue together to find the wisdom shared together. This must have been monumental even for them. I can’t imagine the fireworks of these spirited souls.

Tomorrow I will watch the parade from the vantage point of our local business, the Buffalo Bookstore, surrounded by friends, neighbors, family, tourists, visitors, WTAMU students, and everyone in the community. There is no doubt in my mind that I will cherish the MIRACLE that is my Freedom, and treasure the memory of the WISDOM of the founding fathers.

As a writer, AND as a citizen, they are NEVER just words to me.

I can’t leave this blog post without celebrating the life of Margaret and Ples Harper, and Margaret and William Moore, the founders of the musical drama TEXAS. Both of these families were veterans of World War II and professors at WTSU, now WTAMU. Margaret Harper read an article about Paul Green in the July 1960 edition of Reader’s Digest. She invited the Moore’s over for supper and they discussed if it would be possible to do an outdoor drama in Palo Duro Canyon. They decided to write to Green and ask him to come to see what he could do. The date of the original letter was July 3rd 1960. I can only imagine the pageantry that they were anticipating as Canyon prepared for the next day festivities. They must have agonized over their correspondence until the mail went out after the fourth. I wonder what date Paul Green received this simple note at his mailbox, and if he knew where Canyon Texas was?

Truly a MIRACLE any way you look at it!

Happy July 4th everyone. Celebrate family and community, please be safe!

GAN


GAN

by Sharon Stevens

“Gan-A contraction of began, or rather the original simple word.”

1890 Webster’s Dictionary

I BEGAN Tuesday morning with the news of the murder of a man in Lubbock with the involvement of a local doctor here in Amarillo. I ended the day with a news interview on Pro News 7 about Dr. Warner at Pioneer Town at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum. In between I checked my facebook account, and clicked on the picture of my daughter, Andrea Keller and her friend and colleague Elaine Plybon, both teachers, on their way to a conference in Wichita Kansas for Podstock.

Whew! What a ride!

In words taken from the musical drama TEXAS. “Take good news where you are going, say to the waiting dead that your brothers intend good things.”

The whole day I celebrated good news. Not news of puppies, bunnies and rainbows by any means. I rejoiced in the fact that each of these stories were shared and could be shared on every level and all mediums. As a writer I can write, or share, or click to my heart’s content. Any one of us can read Shakespeare or Edgar Allen Poe, or Harry Potter. Not only that, we could read anything at any hour of the day and night. And just think of it, I only have my husband to tell me to turn out the light and go to bed.

I can sing, even though there are those who wished I wouldn’t. But I can hum and rejoice and worship to any Almighty Power that leads my soul. No one can force me, coerce me, drag me, or guilt me into believing against my beliefs. On the other hand, they can guide me and lead me and stand beside me wherever I go.

To me it is so important for each of us as writers to take a moment every once in a while to give thanks for the Freedom TO write. I believe there is no greater gift we cherish than to be able to put words to paper or into cyberspace with only the worry of rejection to guide us. How rich are we in our society that we don’t face retaliation against all we hold most dear. Not only can we write, but we can read whatever anyone else writes about such things as vampires or murder or ugliness, as well as whatever sugary sweet confection that appeals to some palates, mine included.

Each and every morning as I BEGIN my day I remember the very basic and simple privilege given to me by those who protect that freedom. Celebrating the ability to write means the world. With this good news I am given the universe, all because I write.

Sharon Stevens

GEMS


GEMS

by Sharon Stevens

Mary Elizabeth Gordon-Cummings died forty years ago this month. She had fallen down the basement steps of her crumbling home and laid there several days in a heap on the floor, no one hearing her cries before a neighbor came to check on her. Old age and pneumonia then tore her down and she succumbed, her features clawed and withered with severe arthritis. She spent her last days in a clinical environment in a local hospital where everyone saw her as ancient.

We called her Aunt Molly and knew her as neighbor in my years growing up. How many times I wished I had visited with her. What could she have taught me with her stories and her memories. What could she have shared with her artist’s eye and her love of all that surrounded her. We will never know. She carried everything to her grave. She was old, her joints knarled and ugly, pain marring every feature. Nothing is left. She is dead and buried. All is gone.

But wait. I have her picture from a photograph that once hung on the walls of the Randall County Courthouse. There is no notation of when it was taken or where or why. It doesn’t tell the story of when she was born, or her passions, or her pain, but her beauty and the sweet face of youth is captured within.

Phebe Warner had urged her to come to the plains of Texas to apply as an art teacher at Goodnight College. Molly and Charles Goodnight welcomed her with open arms and gave her a glimpse of the empire they had established as the J.A. Ranch. Coming from Dallas and encountering dirt streets of Amarillo and the limited comforts of home must have been an eye opener. But the first meal at their home she remembered how the lemonade looked in the glass pitcher, the tour of the gardens, the bee hives, and of course the ranch itself.

She met Charles Lennox Gordon-Cummings at the Goodnights, and they married and moved to land west of Canyon on the Tierra Blanco Creek. Later they built a magnificent home and raised three daughters out here on the Texas plains. Mr. Gordon-Cummings died in the 1940’s and Molly lived out her life alone except for her brother that lived with her until his death in a train accident. You can read the story of her life in “The Randall County Story” by Grace Warwick.  We became her neighbors in 1952 when my dad bought land and moved us out to the country in the hottest year in recorded history.

I was reminded of Aunt Molly at this year’s annual “Night At The Museum” at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum. I volunteered at the kit house in my role player costume. Armed with my picture of Molly in her youth, a glass picture filled with colored stones, and with my storytelling patchwork hat perched on my head I shared the story of Mary Elizabeth Gordon-Cummings and hoped I made her come alive.

I chose the bright gems in the pitcher because my mother had shared with me that Aunt Molly used to take broken pieces of glass and paint the images that flooded through from the sunlight. What rainbows she must have seen. What colors and prisms must have shown through. What beauty she must have witnessed among the shades of dirt and shadow.

And this brings me to this week’s blog on writing. On the season finale of “Castle” his daughter is agonizing over her valedictory speech after researching speeches by the famous such as Steve Jobs, and presidents, and historical figures and famous celebrities. Castle advises her (and I will never forget his words), “write whats true to you”.

In my writings I could pen about how Mary Elizabeth died a horrible death, abandoned, without neighbors to care whether she lived or died. I could write a horror story about how arthritis had turned her body into a mass of ugliness with her hands so gnarled she couldn’t even pick up a spoon to feed herself, much less a brush to paint. But I CHOOSE to write of her beauty, and imagine the sunrises and the sunsets she must have seen from the top floor of her great home. My heart CHOOSES to remember the smell of the lilacs that lined the walk, and the massive, shimmering cottonwoods that shaded her memories.

Don’t get me wrong. I love to read all kinds of stories from “Chicken Soup for the Soul” all the way to zombies, murder and mayhem. I have troubles with “Flowers in the Attic” but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate good writing. I don’t mind being led to an author I haven’t read before such as Harlan Coban and I absolutely fell in love with Stephen King’s, “Dorothy Claiborne”.  I will always treasure stories like “E.T.” and “The Goonies” (celebrating 25 years), “Toy Story” and any story that encompasses good versus evil. “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” is just one of my favorites with the connection to being filmed in Palo Duro Canyon on the Christian Ranch. And don’t get me started on the musical drama TEXAS. More importantly, I remember those who struggled and faced adversity, but found strength within because they were surrounded by friends. I treasure community and neighbors and family, those that touch our lives on the level of all that is good and honest. My passion is to share of heritage, legacy, the pioneer spirit, beauty, patriotism, and freedom. OH sweet freedom. I feel that there is always room for that

I will always treasure the spirit of Aunt Molly and the artistry she shared. And even though I read anything and everything in sight, I just want to write what is true to me, myself and I.  To me each word and every memory is a gem.

By the way this week celebrates the Queens Diamond Jubilee and since Charles Lennox-Gordon-Cummings was titled nobility from Scotland I am sure he would have received an invitation to the festivities. This week also marks the anniversary of D-Day during World War II and may we stop to remember not only June 6 but also each and every day past, present and future that we honor not only those in service, but those on the home front and the veterans and their families that share this common bond that ties us all to conflict and peace.

Last but not least…WTAMU is hosting the SUMMER STORYTELLING CONFERENCE on campus June 8-10, 2012 at the Sybil Harrington Fine Arts Complex. Friday and Saturday there will be concerts in the FAC Recital Hall at 7pm with a Sacred Story Concert Sunday from 9-10:30 a.m. at the Joseph Hill Chapel. Dr. Trudy Hanson has all the registration information and Eldrina Douma has been instrumental in sharing her stories. The guest speakers are from around the country and our own Jodi Thomas will be front and center speaking on creative storytelling.

And don’t forget the Frontiers in Writing Conference June 28 with the best guest speakers ever, Natalie Bright is the conference chair. And then also we celebrate the Writing Academy at WTAMU with Jodi Thomas and Tim Lewis. WHEW what a lineup!

Sharon Stevens