NAILS


NAILS

By Sharon Stevens

You’ll never guess what I was doing on Good Friday this year.

For starters, I dropped by Stevens Flowers to pick up a special gift to celebrate a family birthday, a wedding, and a new birth, all in the same family. Stepping out the door I noticed a feather on the sidewalk and knew I was on the right path. Next I stopped by Haley’s Printing, then to Johnston’s Hardware for nails, and then I continued on my journey on past the Palace Coffee House. Another stop was a purchase of the 100-year issue of the Canyon News. Before entering I read the Historical marker about the Warwick family, such a legacy for our town. Round and round I went traveling the entire courthouse square taking pictures of every business and each memory. My final stop was at the statue of the World War I Doughboy to pay my respects, and to read the names on the plaque for remembrance. This is the very least I can do.  Even with the shadowing trees gone that shaded the warrior from the sun, he still stands ever at the ready for whatever battle calls him to arms.

After returning to my place of origin, and before stepping back into my car, I stopped once again at Stevens Flowers and photographed the feather still resting in front of the store on the sidewalk, my heart coming full circle once again.

And the nails…at the beginning of my journey I walked in to Johnston’s Hardware and was greeted by Curt Johnston as always. Even though my husband had been by several times this was the first time I had been in the store since it was remodeled. This was beautiful! Bringing back the tin ceilings showcased all those items found at any local hardware store, but the silver reflecting from above brightened even the dreariest tool.

But my mission was all about the nails.

Curt asked me which kind I needed and what size or for what project. How could I explain to him that I had no clue?

As a writer I wanted the nails to represent so many memories to segue into a story. Since it was Good Friday of course this would connect to the Crucifixion of Christ, but this wasn’t my main focus. I had a thought in my mind that reminded me of a sweet memory shared with me about nails at the family Grove Hill Methodist Church in Leonard Texas. There was another story in my mind about an American Flag I found nailed to the wall in an abandoned house, the sole purpose of this beautiful symbol used only to hide illegal activity. On another vein I also wanted to honor my husband, patiently waiting on me at our own hometown business, the Buffalo Bookstore. He deserved a precious story about his life as a craftsman, and all the things he had built with his own hands over the years. And I could never forget Joseph as a carpenter, and his Son, Jesus, learning the trade of his Father.

There was no way I could give a description or reasoning OR explanation for this piece of hardware so Curt could direct me further. “For want of a nail…” Any piece of steel would do as long as the word, “nail” was listed on the box. I needed something so tangible and physical that it would inspire every sentence, every thought. I knew how Nandy Ekle felt with her Wordsmithsix blog, “The Grail” about her Stephen King cup. If I just had the perfect nail I knew I could create any masterpiece of my choosing. Pain or joy would be at my fingertips, straight through to my soul, exuding my thoughts from pen to paper.

Quickly I chose from the display loaded with every length and penny. Under Curt’s guiding but watchful eye I didn’t want to close my eyes and pick. He probably thought, no, he knew I was already looney, just kind enough not to say so. I chose quickly and took my purchase up to the front, and paid the price worth every cent. I asked after Curt’s family and told him to tell them hello. Precious people in a hometown business, you can’t get any better than this. When I left the store I continued around the circle back to my car and found the feather again.

How could I ever explain to anyone of the significance of the nail?

This coming Monday is Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah). In researching this blog I read so many quotes and memories. Some I found even related to nails. One was a negative connotation referring to being crooked, another was explaining the beauty of nails, (fingernails) with the lighting of the Sabbath candles. Still another describes the reasoning behind Jewish law only allowing natural materials like plain wood for a coffin so the body can return naturally to earth. Nails could be an item that would impede the process of decomposition.

But I think what hit the nail on the head was the note I came across with the founding of this holiday on April 12, 1951 that signified “Devastation and Heroism Day”.

Since Yom Hashaoh is a relatively new holiday there are no set rules or rituals. What kind of rituals could represent the Holocaust?

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COMPATRIOTS


COMPATRIOTS

By Sharon Stevens

 

We had such fun at critique group last week. Everyone brought a strong story and shared. As usual we each had a take on what our characters were trying to say with what voice. I had found an article in the Amarillo Globe News by Chip Chandler about WTAMU’s “Anatomy of Gray”, the play at the Sybil B. Harrington Theatre.  Caleb Brink who played the healer, Galen Gray, had kept a diary in Gray’s voice to try to better understand his character.

I had everyone at critique to write a diary entry of their characters. We didn’t go into depth, but just used one liner’s to describe an entry as if they had written into their own journal with their characters voice. Boy did we get some zingers! Fun had by all, lifting the spirits from the serious side of deep characters from all across the spectrum.

I have my grandfather’s diary from World War I in France at the signing of the Armistice, and on February 23, 1919 he wrote that he was …

“Disturbed, Disappointed, Discouraged, Disheartened, & Disgusted. I don’t know how many more “dis” I could use but I feel like using all of them.”

Now what could have made such a young man be so discouraged? He was homesick and so many ships had already headed west. He had LaGrippe (Spanish Flu) and I’m sure he didn’t feel well. His commanding officer had bawled the company out and that may have got him down. Who knows what was bothering him on this particular day.

I think as writers that every once in awhile we need to write an entry into the diaries of our characters. We need to give them a “voice” so we can share in their thoughts and feelings. So many times we, especially me, just skim the surface, keeping everything hunky-dory with sunshine and rainbows. Our stories can become more real if we give them a moment to pause or tinge them with a little sorrow, or at least simply a heart.

Writing a diary is also a timeline of the day’s events and everything about the weather. To think about it, after I took my first creative writing class and was working on my novel I took a daily planner and jotted down the sights and smells and sensations that surrounded me each day. I can still go back and read those entries and it whisks me right back to that time period.

This Sunday represents the anniversary of the letter Colonel William B. Travis wrote to cry for help for his fellow Texans. This letter will be coming home to the Alamo for the first time since it left the mission in 1836. In all essence this correspondence is a diary entry. I wonder how many times Travis wrote the message in his head. Did he share it with Bowie, or Crockett, or any of the other men there with him? Did he really think anyone would come or was he resigned to his fate and those around him, and just wrote the words to keep up appearances, convinced that help was coming?

During World War II Dorothy Gill wrote in her book, “Memories of World War II” that her husband and his fellow National Guard Texas “T-Patchers” carried a copy of Travis’ letter in the Standard of the American Flag as they stormed the beach at Salerno Italy. I wonder how many diary entries were written before and after the battle where they shared stories of home and loved ones, or even just the weather. Who knows what they wrote in their heart and soul.

Tonight the weathermen predict snow, sleet and treacherous roads. We plan on having another critique group meeting tomorrow evening if the weather holds.

I wonder what we will write in the diaries of our characters as if they were facing the same events. I don’t think sunshine and rainbows quite fills the bill.

Commandancy of the Alamo

Bexar, Feb. 24th, 1836

To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World—

Fellow Citizens and Compatriots

I am besieged with a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual Bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours and have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison is to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our Flag still waves proudly over the wall. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism, of everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid with all dispatch.

The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily and will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due his honor and that of his country…

VICTORY OR DEATH

William Barret Travis

Lt. Col. Comd’t

P.S. The Lord is on our side—when the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn—We have since found in deserted houses 80-90 bushels & got into the walls 20 or 30 head of beeves.

COMMERCIAL


COMMERCIAL

By Sharon Stevens

 

How do you write cute on a blank page?

I’m not talking about cuddly, kitty-cat cute, but the kind of cute that translates to Super Bowl cute! You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? How can anyone write the kind of cuteness that inspires someone else to create a thirty-second televised spot that is worth $4,000,000.00? What makes a normal human being able to turn a thought into something that can be further created into a mega-commercial? What makes moments, which can eventually be watched by many millions all over the world, the universe, for the millennium? And not only for just this one Sunday in particular, but for as long as cyberspace exists, bouncing all the way back and forth from every satellite in a Star Wars outer space.

What elevates a word so far up the media ladder it becomes an icon discussed and hashed, twittered, and treasured by anyone who has technology at their fingertips?

I can’t do it!

Oh sure, I can print the word C U T E. But when I write it, it’s just that, a word. And all the while someone else sets it to paper or gives it tangible meaning, well, it just doesn’t come out the same.

I know this, and so does everyone else who reads anything I write. I cannot take a single word and condense it down and make it come out “write.” Of course, I can’t take a million words and try to say the same things either.

How do they do it? What do they have that I don’t have? Of course they probably have a salary that gives them the freedom to do whatever they want, and a staff (how many staff?), and an unlimited budget. Incentives, how many incentives do you think they encounter in the run of a day. What cutesy offices do they have to keep the creative juices flowing? Do their secretaries hold all calls when the team is in the inspirational mode? Oh wait. That is so last century. What do they set their cell phones, I Pad, Blackberry’s, laptops, Mac’s or what have you to get them on the right track? Do they have windows to watch the skyline, or do they go out and watch a movie and munch popcorn to get them into the mood? I just can’t fathom! What’s the secret?

Someone has to write the scripts, the words, and the print. Someone has to dream the graphics, the colors, see the patterns in their heart and soul. And someone has to hear the music, not only the notes themselves, but how the lyrics combine together with the message. People spend their whole lives preparing for thirty seconds on air SEEN around the planet. And I’m not even talking half-time. Why couldn’t that be me?

I have my grandfather’s diary from World War I in France, and on January 28, 1919 he writes that he “Went down to the “Y”(YMCA) for entertainment first there was a good fine real picture and then a party of four Frenchmen: two men and two women entertained us with some high class singing. Some kind of a show that they charge $1.50 to $5.00 in some of the cities.”

Grandfather was a young man, and for the first and last time in his entire life he was millions of miles away from the family farm in East Texas. When he describes “high class singing” you can bet he meant HIGH CLASS so much more than what he wrote in his little notebook that he kept tucked into the pocket of his uniform. If they charged $1.50 to $5.00 a show, then you knew he recognized what a treat that was for not only him, but all the patriots in his unit that were in service to Uncle Sam ninety five years ago.

Because I have his diary and read the entries from the time he enlisted till the time he was discharged, I can read in between the lines and ascertain what kind of man he was, and what his interests were so many years ago.

With the Super Bowl commercials being so brief, someone has to know the audience and gauge the reaction of the world way before anything ever hits the airways. So what if four million dollars are spent on thirty seconds…how many millions are collected in the making of that one spot? What research is done within walls and outside the box from the years before all the while looking into the future, with focus groups that determine cuteness from ugly with a flicker of their eyelids, or a nod of their head, or a text on their hand held devices.

Cute just takes on a whole new meaning!

Oh how I wish I had that kind of talent! Sure I’d like to make a million dollars profit off of thirty seconds, but just as importantly (yea right), I would like to have millions look at my word “cute” and know what it meant and share my “cute” to friends, families, and neighbors, in every “Nook” and cranny all around the world and back. If just for once the majority could understand what I was trying to say and “share” accordingly.

And maybe then MY “cute” could become marketable. After all, there’s only room for ONE cute for every Super Bowl. Isn’t that write?

PATRIOTISM


PATRIOTISM

by Sharon Stevens

n. patriot+ism- love and loyal or zealous support of one’s own country,especially in all matters involving other countries; nationalism.     Websters New World Dictionary

In honor, memory, and celebration of my grandparents Richard & Anna Groves

What I know about patriotism I learned from my grandparents. During World War II families were encouraged to invite servicemen from the local air base for holiday meals. Rationing dictated they could only host two men at a time. The soldiers chosen for my grandparents refused to come unless they could bring a third. Their friend was of Chinese descent from California, and though he fought in Uncle Sam’s army he was unwelcome outside the base.

Grandfather had served in World War I in France in the Balloon Corp when the Armistice was signed. He knew how it felt to be so far from home at any time, but especially during the holiday season. Also their son was serving in Italy. Grandmother found it hard to imagine her first born a world away, and hoped he could find refuge with a family there. So without hesitation they opened their hearts to these three young men.

My mother remembers that first Thanksgiving of the war. They ate turkey with all the trimmings, and cakes made within rationing guidelines.

From that point on the soldier became a surrogate son. Christmas came and went, New Years and Valentine’s Day followed. Every spare moment found him at their address and not just for meals. Weekends were spent playing cards and listening to the radio with the family. Many of the other soldiers spent time off the base riding the bus downtown, to the drive inns, to the dances…his refuge was found within.

I have thought back over my grandparents efforts many times. Outside their home this young man would have faced certain discrimination, an ugliness aimed at his features though he wore the uniform of an American soldier.

In sharing the family hearth my grandparents weren’t marching in cadence with a military band, or saluting the flag with their hands over their hearts as the Star Spangled Banner stirred their soul. Their gesture spanned countless generations of dedicated Americans. They were doing what they could for the war effort by offering a warm meal with filling hearts while they filled bellies. Our family celebrated freedom just by welcoming a young soldier, AND the two friends who refused to leave him behind…simply a shining example linking the heritage of all patriots across time.

Through this legacy I know wars aren’t just won on the battlefield. Patriotism is practiced by those warriors who merely keep the home fires burning.

Sharon Stevens