STOP


STOP 

By Sharon Stevens

This last weekend my husband and I decided to take off for a long weekend. Even though we needed to get away, with the price of gas we knew we couldn’t go too far. So yet again we chose the same old journey that has provided refuge for our family over the years. Even though we didn’t think we would be doing much fishing we packed the tackle box and fishing gear just the same. Monument Lake Colorado here we come.

Our excitement continued to build as we got closer to our destination. The colors began to change the farther we traveled. The air was lighter, and so was our hearts. The road wound through the familiar countryside. Oh, if only our children, our families, and our friends had been with us. So many times they had come along to keep us company in years past, and filled our soul with the kind of memories that kept us warm however cold a winter’s night. Actually my husband and I were sort of lonely, with just the two of us along for the ride. How would we keep each other company over the next three days?

But after we got to the lake, and once my husband threw his line into the water it didn’t take long for us to go our separate ways. Forget any kind of relationship bonding. We both knew we needed to refresh ourselves. To each his own.

As usual while he fished, I wandered. I wondered and marveled and rejoiced to see all the beautiful creation that welcomed me. I smelled leaves, and grass. I heard birds twittering and elk calling. I felt the breeze brush my face. The last of the wildflowers and the ever green pines filled my head with the scents of autumn, the last before blizzards buried the smell till the coming spring.

And the colors! How could anyone describe the colors? There were no words for every shade of red, orange, green, yellow and every hue in between. I turned my camera this way and that and took pictures from every angle, with every light and shadow I could fathom.

And this brings me to my thoughts as a writer. Everywhere I go I take a picture of a sign. This may be a STOP sign, or a yield sign, or a directional sign, or one advising of speed limits, or a twist or a turn. These metal fixtures are there in my camera as a constant reminder…a reminder of what?

Once they are downloaded they are in my computer forever. Later when I come across them as a slide show I can relive them again and again, in my heart and in my soul, and with every fiber of my being. I never know when these may help me to STOP for just a moment, and reflect on what I am really trying to say. Or maybe it’s my character’s way of saying not to go down that path, but to choose another. Or it could be my psyche’s way of reminding me I need to take a break for myself or my story, to stave off getting too bogged down with the nitty-gritty. Or it could be God’s way of saying to take a minute and remember HIS Creation. Every sign may have the same word, but the message may carry a different meaning.

And as a final thought, when this symbol comes across, it could be a sign that I need to get up from my laptop, go find my husband, and tell him how much I love him. If I follow the direction printed on the sign, I can remind him how much he is appreciated. With love I can thank him for taking me for a weekend getaway, driving hundreds of miles, burning expensive fuel, spending his (our) hard earned money for a night’s stay in a hotel, and blowing our food budget by eating out again and again. Even though I did let him fish, how wonderful it was that he would drive all that way just so I could STOP for the briefest of moments, and capture countless pictures of every STOP sign at every intersection.

After all, he ever so gently reminds me, each one says the same thing.

CHRISTMAS


CHRISTMAS
by Sharon Stevens
My husband was outside mowing as I was finishing up this week’s blog on the first day of summer. With the recent rains he was already behind in keeping the weeds at bay. In the house I had just cut up a cantaloupe to put in the refrigerator, really wishing for homemade ice cream instead that signified a return to summer memories. Within the last couple of years our area had faced deadly drought, reminders of the dust bowl days that once had sucked the life out of every living thing, wildflowers included.
May 29th celebrated the 70th anniversary during World War II of Bing Crosby’s recording of “White Christmas”. Jeff Messer, the chaplain of Bivin’s Foundation had posted in the Amarillo Globe News about the story, and described what a morale booster this was for those in service and those on the home front.
When I think of Christmas like everyone else I picture glittering snow, shiny tinsel, curling ribbon, rolls of wrapping paper, evergreen and holly wreaths, and of course Santa Claus. You wouldn’t think that summer months are the perfect time to remember the holidays, but in all actuality this is a great time to set down family memories.
The Otwell Twins describe dressing in holiday costumes when it was still sweltering in California. The Lawrence Welk specials were taped in late summer, and they told me it was hard for everyone to get into the Christmas spirit weighed down with heavy velvet under the hot stage lights.
Jack Sorenson tells me that when he gets ready to paint his Christmas Santa his wife turns up the air conditioner and decorates his studio in twinkling lights encircled around the tree. The only thing missing is the yule log crackling in the fireplace, and gingerbread cookies along with a glass of milk waiting on the hearth for ole Saint Nick.
For years publishing houses and magazines called for submissions six months ahead which meant that June is the time for holiday stories. With the Internet and Facebook you would think that you could wait until at least the fall to send in polished work, but they are already deciding what will go into those issues. Chicken Soup for the Soul is one example that needs those tales shared.
Even if you are not interested in sending in a story of Christmas or Hanukah celebrations or disasters, now would be a great time to stretch your writing skills. As you are watching the grass grow or melting in summer heat pull out your writing utensils and try to capture the shiver of building snowmen, the warmth of hand stitched quilts, the smell of pecan pie and so on and so on. Take every little bit of the experience and shape it into a story. Write a poem and weave the threads together. Pen a song that helps you to remember just why you celebrate with your families and friends this special time of year.
You may be surprised to find you have a classic on your hands that sends a timeless message to be read year after year around the family hearth.
And now I think I will go get a piece of cantaloupe out of the fridge and imagine its snow ice cream, all the while dreaming of a “White Christmas”.
Sharon Stevens