Return to Sender

Today – the middle of the month of April – not one but two Christmas cards I mailed off (both on the 17th of December) came back to me.

They carry yellow stickers. Return to Sender. Not Deliverable as Addressed. Unable to Forward.

One is a card for a friend I worked with in San Francisco in the early 1980s. We were secretaries in the Marketing Department of what at that time was a national-wide not-for-profit insurance company. Those were heady days, of alcoholic lunches when the bosses took you out at noon and you returned to the office several hours and many rounds later. After work, life meant meeting friends for drinks or beers at the neighborhood bars, and more restaurants and cultural events than you could count. I was in my twenties and living in ‘the big city’ for the first time.

San Francisco was a candy store, and I was a wide-eyed child with a big appetite.

The second returned Christmas card is addressed to the retired librarian from the University of Washington Health Services. I worked at UW in the late 1980s. I was going to massage school in my spare time, and my friend was keenly interested in what I was doing, as she was in anything to do with the world of healing. Traditional or alternative medicine: she always wanted to know more. She suggested we do a trade. I gave her massages right there in her office at lunch time. [1] She did document searches for me, tracking down peer-reviewed medical journal articles about massage in the days when massage was still a dicey career choice. (I was asked more times than I care to count what the name of the massage parlor was where I planned to ‘work’.) (Hah. Hah. Hah.)

My friend the librarian ran a working farm. We also traded those massage sessions in her office for packages amounting to half a lamb each spring. Once she snuck in a package of goat meat. “But how do I cook goat meat?” I protested.

“Really? Congratulations, Jadi. This is what people eat in a lot of places in the world. Figure it out!” I passed THAT package along to friends when I went to visit them. The husband is one of the best cooks I know, and Jim would have a solution. [2]

So here I am, firmly settled in Germany with my Swabian husband. I send out yearly Christmas cards along with a letter and a current photo taken by Uwe [3]. It’s my annual production, each letter hand stamped with glittery snowflakes. Because my mom made the most wonderful Christmas cards in the world. She had a husband and three very active little girls, and her cards were magic.

Mom would recruit us to help her color in the cards. I don’t know if this hand-painted card smeared then or later
I won’t even bother mentioning the decade that this card was made in. If you have to ask, you weren’t there…. Of course, it goes without saying that Mom sewed the dresses we’re wearing

My own, less clever Christmas cards are a way to remain connected to my mom’s tradition. And the cards are my way to remain connected, if I can, even if just one day out of the year, with the people who were in my life in various places at various times. Each of them helped me with their friendships more than they’ll ever know. Each year a few cards come back, and another friend has dropped from my life.

I still miss and love them all. [4]

NOTES: [1] I clearly evolved from those boozy San Francisco lunches. But man, I miss them!

[2] Jim braised the goat meat and made stew. It was yummy.

[3] Every single year, shortly before December, you will hear me mutter this: “God damn it, Uwe! I ask you on every vacation to ‘Take a photo that will be perfect for my Christmas letter!’ Just once I’d like to have a photograph from one of our trips picked out and ready to go for Christmas! Just once!”

[4] Now I know what to tell people in next year’s cards.

© Jadi Campbell 2021. All photos and images © and property of Jadi Campbell. To see Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

 

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

 

The Animal Kingdom: Grande Finale 2

The place that inspired The Trail Back Out

And it’s the last post in this blog thread for Bobbo! I present the Grande Finale: Installment # 42! describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

Well-hidden knot member. Back trails, Cranberry Lake, Adirondacks

  1. This herd wasn’t on a leash.
  2. The obstinate gang ganged up on the humans.
  3. It’s not easy to find this knot.
  4. The cluster clustered on blossoms.
  5. I’m troubled by the trouble brought on by a troubling.
  6. A mute is anything but!
  7. A gargle really has necks to gargle.
  8. After reading this wonderful blog thread I hope you all now worship the worship!

Answers:

Herd member, Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, India
  1. Herd of deer [1]
  2. Herd, gang AND obstinacy of water buffalo [2]
  3. Knot of toads
  4. Cluster of dragonflies [3]
  5. Troubling of goldfish
  6. Mute of hound dogs
  7. Gargle of swans
  8. Worship of writers [4]
Herd, aka Leash, Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, India
Cluster member, Cranberry Lake, Adirondacks
Gang, Inle Lake, Myanmar
Herd, Inle Lake, Myanmar

NOTES: [1] Also known as a leash of deer [2] Herd, gang and obstinacy of water buffalo National Geographic [3] Cluster, swarm or flight of dragonflies [4] Australian Geographic  and An Exaltation of Larks by James Lipton.

Worshipper of words….

NOTES on NOTES: I almost never put myself in my posts. For this final hurrah a photo and the final, special definition are called for. Thanks and much love to all my readers for sticking with this thread and sharing your feedback. — Jadi

© Jadi Campbell 2021. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.  Fun animal names from www.writers-free-reference.com, Mother Nature Network and www.reference.com.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

Hive, Thai temple … the hive mind that is the Internet …

The Animal Kingdom: Grande Finale 1

And it’s the first half of the last post in this blog thread for Bobbo! I present the Grande Finale: Installment # 41! describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page. Happy Easter, everyone. May the world be reborn.

A colony’s done some serious colonizing in here. Back trails, Cranberry Lake, Adirondacks
  1. The host hosted a seed hunt.
  2. The storytelling is storytelling.
  3. The colony colonized the waters with colonies.
  4. She feverishly watched the fever.
  5. The road teemed with teams.
  6. No way to hide from this hive’s hive!
  7. The scoop scoops with scoops.

Answers:

Scoop!
  1. Host of sparrows
  2. Storytelling of crows
  3. Colony of beavers
  4. Fever of sting rays
  5. Team of oxen
  6. Hive of bees [1]
  7. Scoop of pelicans [2]
Fever, Kagoshima Aquarium, Japan

NOTES: [1] A hive is the physical location. Bee status: Endangered [2] Remember the squadron of pelicans from Installment #3?

NOTES on NOTES: I almost never put myself in my posts. For this final hurrah a photo and a final, special definition are called for. Thanks and much love to all my readers for sticking with this thread and sharing your feedback. — Jadi

Worshipper of words….

© Jadi Campbell 2021. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.  Fun animal names from www.writers-free-reference.com, Mother Nature Network and www.reference.com.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

Hive, Thai temple

My Imaginary Friends: #2. Gabe’s Necklace

My husband used to work in northern Sweden every winter. (Go to It Was a Bitterly Cold -22 Degrees) I flew up for a long weekend. On Friday he had to drive on a frozen lake, writing code for the braking system  that would become ESP, a safety feature now installed in cars everywhere.

I went exploring in downtown Arjeplog. The only tourists were people like me, family members visiting the car engineers.

It was March, a grand -6 degrees at the warmest part of the day, so I went to the Silvermuseet. I like museums anyway, and Arjeplog’s museum is a fun mix of artifacts from early settlers, a history of the now-closed silver mines, and the earliest presence of humans. I was the only visitor in the museum.

A tall glass case contained a runebomme, an old Saami drum. [1] When I moved closer for a look, lights clicked on and a recording of drumming began to play. I was surprisingly moved, and totally intrigued by the images etched on the drum hide. Animals, people, and boats were depicted.

The Saami Shaman Drum Kobdas (drum) is a sacred map. It contains drawings of people and the spirit gods and goddesses of Nature often centered around a symbol of the sun. They are used by the shaman (male and female alike) to awaken other levels of reality to guide families in their daily life, find the right path during migrations, locate things which are missing, heal diseases and help the community in times of crisis. They can also foresee the future and give guidance. [2]

The museum gift shop sold gifts made by local artists. I bought myself a necklace. It’s made with reindeer horn scrimshaw, embedded in arctic curly birch. I don’t wear it often, but when I do it always feels special.

Many years later I wrote a character named Gabe Burgess, who is given a similar necklace by his Norwegian lover as a remembrance before they part ways in Greece. I liked the idea of a burly man tucking the amulet into his shirt when he went traveling.

Eight-pointed snowflake

I thought my necklace was the image of a snowflake. Today, as I did some research to make sure this post’s information on the museum and the drums is accurate, I discovered this:

The image is really an early compass.

My world explorer Gabe has always worn a depiction of the points of the compass, guiding him safely home.

Perfect.

Saami compass

He liked the romance of travel, in every sense of the word. His destinations veered wildly from year to year. In the beginning, Gabe’s journeys were random. As a youth Gabe traveled with a heavy, framed backpack and headed often for the beaches. He spent a blissful month camping on the southern coast of Crete with a busty blonde from Norway named Berit. At the end of the four weeks he returned to New York City with Berit’s address and telephone number tucked inside his passport, and a talisman around his neck. On their last night together she had turned her head away from him and reached for the necklace tucked under her long hair.

She made him close his eyes as she placed a chain over his neck. “Go look in the mirror,” she requested, and obediently Gabe walked to the little oval mirror in their beach hostel. In it he found his own image (now much darker and even properly black after a month spent in the island sunshine), his neck encircled with an image on wood. He pulled the chain back over his head to examine it more closely.

Berit put her arms around his waist and stared over his shoulder at him in the mirror. “It’s Saami.” She explained, “It’s a snowflake with eight points to it, carved on reindeer horn. The wooden back is birch. It is to bring you luck, dear friend,” she added solemnly, and kissed the side of his temple. [3]

NOTES: Text and photos © Jadi Campbell 2020. [1] Arjeplog Silvermuseet. The Catholic Church destroyed the drums, outlawed their use, and persecuted the shaman (noajdde). Many drums were buried or hidden. “Of the thousands once existing, only 71 drums have survived with their skins intact[.]” Saami Drum [2] Quoted from Arctic Saami Style Kellamknives.com  [3] “Waiting” from Broken In: A Novel in Stories © Jadi Campbell 2012.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase Broken In: A Novel in Stories or my other books.

Signed by the artist

The Trail Back Out – Excerpt

As promised, here is an excerpt from my story The Trail Back Out. This tale was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. The entire collection The Trail Back Out was named an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Awards Finalist in the category  Fiction: Anthologies.

The Trail Back Out © Jadi Campbell 2020

I: Prelude: Rain and Fire

Each evening, while twilight shadows lengthened, Ken sat and stared into the fire. What a shame it had taken what felt like the end of the world for him to return to the Adirondacks.

Ken had been working on the oil fracking fields and living in a container. The evenings consisted of lengthy monologues from men alternately bored, or angry, or scared, arguing over every subject with a captive audience.

Why aren’t there any solitary quarters, he’d thought more than once. When a new wave of the mutated virus arrived, the corporation went into lockdown. All workers would quarantine with them or leave.

Ken looked around and couldn’t imagine sharing a room with any of the men for an extended period. He stopped at the head office to quit and collected his back pay. Ken gathered his things (simultaneously relieved and strangely distressed that they made a small bundle) and drove away.

He traveled cross country, always heading east, not yet quite sure where he was going. In some places he took temporary work; no matter where he stayed, in his free hours Ken helped register people to vote. Outside Kansas City he bought camping gear and stocked the trunk of his car with canned goods and nonperishables.

His internal compass pointed its needle at his personal true north. When he pulled into Cranberry Lake township in upstate New York months later, Ken’s eyes burned. He passed signs that stated simply, Forever wild. Ken had arrived in one of the loneliest places that an already solitary human being could go in an increasingly lonely world. He was glad; it beat being in a ghost town.

Wet winds gusted, but he was sheltered. He scratched his face and watched the flames. “Scritchy,” Grace used to tease. She’d rub her cheeks hard against his bristles. He was the picture of the backwoods loner: a misanthrope in layers of clothes that all smelled like campfire smoke and dried sweat, his tee shirt faded, the wool jacket stiff with dry mud and the smell of damp lanolin.

The perfect cliché. Shaggy hair, overweight, six feet two inches tall when he bothered to stand erect and wasn’t slouching so as not to intimidate other people.

No one to intimidate here. Ken had seen fewer and fewer people as the summer ended. In the last week he’d passed a total of two single hikers, a family, and a couple. Everyone had raised their hands in greeting and headed down the trail to the next pond or on their way back out.

On the day before, he had shared the wet trail for a few minutes with a female park ranger. He imagined how he’d looked: muddy boots, soaked hiking pants, brushing the rain out of his eyes.

He could picture himself, and suddenly Ken did. Across the fire a man stood in the shadows, with rain streaming off a poncho and dripping around his feet.

 “Sorry to break into your privacy like this,” the stranger said. “You were lost in thought. According to my map this was the nearest lean-to. I’ll keep going; it’s not dark yet.”

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021.

Two strangers meet in the woods. Children wear masks. A gambler hides in the cellar during a Category Five hurricane. A wife considers a hit-man’s offer. Princess Rain Clouds searches for happiness. An entire village flees, a life is saved, and a tourist in Venice is melting. Everyone keeps trying to make sense of strange events far in the past or about to occur. Let these characters be your guides. Join them on the trail back out – to a familiar world, now unexpectedly changed.

Click here for my author page to learn more and buy my books.

The Trail Back Out is longlisted!

I was longlisted! My short story The Trail Back Out was named a quarterfinalist for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

If you click on the link, 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Awards, you’ll have the same experience I did….. scrolling down and down and down to the T’s, wondering if the story made it or not.

An interesting experience. The next time I submit a piece, remind me to begin the title with the letter “A” !

Tomorrow I’ll post a bit of The Trail Back Out. I promise I won’t make you scroll for it.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021. The entire collection The Trail Back Out was named an American Book Fest  2020 Best Book Award Finalist in the category  Fiction Anthologies.

Click here for my author page to learn more and buy my books.

 

Interview with Alex Pearl

Follow this link for my interview with the witty EastEnder Alex Pearl! Among other things, we talk about stunt men, building teepees, and poisonous mushrooms….

Interview with Alex Pearl

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021. Interview © Alex Pearl.

The Trail Back Out was named an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Awards Finalist in the category  Fiction: Anthologies.  The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Two strangers meet in the woods. Children wear masks. A gambler hides in the cellar during a Category Five hurricane. A wife considers a hit-man’s offer. Princess Rain Clouds searches for happiness. An entire village flees, a life is saved, and a tourist in Venice is melting. Everyone keeps trying to make sense of strange events far in the past or about to occur. Let these characters be your guides. Join them on the trail back out – to a familiar world, now unexpectedly changed.

Click here for my author page to learn more and buy my books.

The Animal Kingdom: 40

Leege member, Thoulakhom Zoo, Lao

We’re almost done. This is Installment #40 in my blog thread describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

Yoke 1, Inle Lake, Burma
  1. Does a pretence pretend they’re bitter?
  2. Don’t string this string along.
  3. A study studied the landscape.
  4. Do you know any jokes about yokes?
  5. I’d love this leege as my liege.
  6. Families are familiar.
Study member, Bagan, Burma
  1. Pretence of bitterns [1]
  2. String of ponies
  3. Study of owls
  4. Yoke of oxen
  5. Leege of leopards [2]
  6. Family of chimps
Yoke 2, Inle Lake, Burma

NOTES: [1] Bitterns all over the world are critically endangered. Their populations in England began to decline as early as the Middle Ages because “the bird was considered a delicacy and was eaten at banquets up to Tudor times. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the bird became a popular target for taxidermists. The drainage of England’s wetlands devastated the surviving population….” – theguardian.com; www.britishbirdlovers.co.uk [2] This incredibly beautiful big cat is a clouded leopard. Clouded leopards are the most talented climbers among the cats.” wikipedia.org Status: Severely Endangered. ©  Jadi Campbell 2020. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. Fun animal names from en.wiktionary.orgwww.writers-free-reference.com, Mother Nature Network and www.reference.com.

In The Trail Back Out  two strangers meet in the woods. Children wear masks. A gambler hides in the cellar during a Category Five hurricane. A wife considers a hit-man’s offer. Princess Rain Clouds searches for happiness. An entire village flees, a life is saved, and a tourist in Venice is melting. Everyone keeps trying to make sense of strange events far in the past or about to occur. Let these characters be your guides. Join them on the trail back out – to a familiar world, now unexpectedly changed. The Trail Back Out was named an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Awards Finalist in the category  Fiction: Anthologies.  The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and buy my books.

 

Hear the Writers in Stuttgart and NEAT present a Dark Monday Virtual Reading

Image may contain: text that says 'WRITERS IN STUTTGART ...are all lined up to read for you.'

Hear my writers’ group read live, tonight at 8 PM Central European time!  We will appear on YouTube at the following link: Dark Monday. Come on over and hear original stories, poems, essays and real-life vignettes. The Writers in Stuttgart have read as NEAT’s January Dark Monday show for the last five years. It is our honor, and our pleasure.

Our reading can be watched on YouTube until January 18th.

I hope to meet you all there!

Online: youtu.be
Today at 8 PM UTC+01
Price: Free
NEAT presents the WRITERS IN STUTTGART
New Texts: PANDEMONIUM
DARK MONDAY @ MERLIN – January 11 at 20:00 hrs
Program © NEAT 2021.

 

2020 Is Almost Over!

Are you holding your breaths? Are you all waiting for 2020 to end? Are you even remotely interested in revisiting the Year from Hell? I almost skipped the annual looking back review but couldn’t resist. And then I discovered I had to do a review, because basically I can’t remember a damned thing from the last 10 months except that the days went really fast despite being in a lockdown, my waistline expanded, and it is a miracle I got anything done at all.

The brown throated sloth 2020 ANIMAL OF THE YEAR

I started off my 2020 blog talking about travel, from my impressions of the unrest in Hong Kong at this time last year: Ho, Ho, Ho, Hong Kong, Hong Kong 1, Hong Kong 2 , and the coolness that is Costa Rica: What the Heck is a Quetzal? and Hummingbirds.

I’m working on a new thread, called (rather creepily, I know) My Imaginary Friends. The first installment (even more creepily) is  Strangers on a Train.

Things got weird fast as COVID-19 trampled all our illusions of being in control. Me and La Corona, or Things Are Different Now, an especially intense period I call My Schizoid Loop, Notes from the LockdownMore Things are Different Now (aka: The Sloth), How I Spent my Summer Lockdown. Then, because a year of a global pandemic isn’t enough, the world added the insanity of the US election. I had to call a halt in Brideshead Revisited Revisited.

On those days when it all felt like too much (i.e., pretty much every f*cking day) I scheduled the soothing words and photos from my never-ending blog thread about groups of animals. The Animal Kingdom:  33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38.

But – I did the one thing the lockdown demanded when it took away everything else I can do out in the world: I wrote. And, wow! I was named for two book awards, for Tsunami Cowboys 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award longlist, and my new short story collection The Trail Back Out I’m in Good Company!

Book bloggers are something very special in the blogging galaxy. They give a voice to those of us who might otherwise go unheard. I did a batch of interviews with these wonderful book bloggers: Shaz’s Book Blog, Curled Up With a Good Book, Five Things Friday from Willow Croft, JQM Literary Spotlight Presents Tsunami Cowboys, JQM Literary Chat Part 2.

I met virtually with my writing group and we did our first on-line virtual reading. You can catch me reading a short story from my new book here: Live Reading of The Green Under the Snow. I read at about the one-hour mark.

And somehow life went on, and I kept reminding myself that this is just life and death on steroids. I wrote A Cast of Thousands: Day 1, Day 2, in which I went to a two day wedding in India, and the funeral service for a friend Led Zeppelin and the Funeral.

Of course, no year is complete without a posts about food. I gave you Let Them Eat – Elk? and a post about leftover cold pizza as the breakfast food of the gods Cold Pizza! YUM!

Stay safe, stay healthy, and get ready for the collective global sigh of relief when 2020 is finally done! We made it, you guys!!! HAPPY NEW YEAR !!!

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2020. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. Fun animal names from en.wiktionary.orgwww.writers-free-reference.com, Mother Nature Network and www.reference.com.

In The Trail Back Out  two strangers meet in the woods. Children wear masks. A gambler hides in the cellar during a Category Five hurricane. A wife considers a hit-man’s offer. Princess Rain Clouds searches for happiness. An entire village flees, a life is saved, and a tourist in Venice is melting. Everyone keeps trying to make sense of strange events far in the past or about to occur. Let these characters be your guides. Join them on the trail back out – to a familiar world, now unexpectedly changed.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and buy my books.