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.

 

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

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.

I’m in Good Company!

It is my honor to announce that my new book The Trail Back Out was named a finalist for the 2020 Best Book Award in the category of Fiction Anthologies!

Past winners of the Best Book awards have included Amy Tan, George Saunders, Clive Barker and Ann Lamott. I am in very good company indeed. This is the 17th year these awards have been handed out in the publishing industry. It’s an extra honor for me because The Trail Back Out is the only self-published book in my category.

Click on this link to see the list of finalists and the winner. http://americanbookfest.com/generalfiction/anthologies.html

Life is short and art is long. This award is a reminder of why I keep trying to write my best work to give to the world. And I have an extra message to anyone who writes (which, since I’m here in the fine world of bloggers, means all of you….): if you have ever wondered about joining a writers’ group, do so. I belong to the Writers in Stuttgart. In my group are writers of poetry, autobiography, novels, plays, vignettes, short stories, songs, and stories. I workshopped many of the stories in my book with the other members, and the feedback of my peers definitely made my writing better.

Stay safe and healthy, everyone. And Happy Thanksgiving wherever you are!

—Jadi

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2020. 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.

LIVE! The Green Under the Snow, from my new book The Trail Back Out

Starting NOVEMBER 13th AT 8PM! The Writers in Stuttgart’s live-streamed reading is back up on youtube, through the week! If you missed hearing us read in October, this is your chance. I read from my new book at about the one-hour mark in the program.

Click on this link to go there, and enjoy! The Writers in Stuttgart 

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2020. The Trail Back Out is finished and available for purchase. In my new collection of short stories, 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 my books and me.

Hear Me Read Live, this Weekend with the Writers in Stuttgart

The Writers in Stuttgart are giving our first youtube (live streaming) online reading on Friday, October 23rd at 8pm (Friday at 2 pm EST). We normally give readings 3 – 4 times a year in theaters here in Stuttgart. During these strange days we’ve been holding our monthly meetings on Zoom and decided to take a chance on a virtual reading. The upside is that people can view it anywhere in the world. If you can’t make the 8pm time, our show can be viewed for 48 hours after it takes place. A description and the link are below if you and any one you know are interested:

On 23 October, 2020 the Writers in Stuttgart are celebrating the transatlantic relationship between the USA and Germany in honor of the 25th anniversary of the DAZ (the German/American Center) in Stuttgart. In their first live stream reading, the Writers in Stuttgart will explore American, German as well as a variety of other international perspectives on national, international and intercultural identities and the German-American relationship of past, present and future. Join the Writers in Stuttgart on 23 October, 2020 at 8:00pm (2pm ET Friday in U.S.) at

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCml9nOF5jfVJRjw4mIqsgCg

Stay safe & healthy, and I hope to see you this weekend.

Best Wishes,

Jadi

PS: I’ll be reading The Green Under the Snow from my new short stories collection, in the second half of the program.

The Trail Back Out is finished and available for purchase! In my new collection of short stories, 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 my books and me.

Five Things Friday from WIllow Croft

NOTES: Reblogged with kind permission from https://willowcroft.blog/

Interview with Author Jadi Campbell

Here’s this week’s “Five Things Friday” feature author, Jadi Campbell! I come up with five random questions and the author answers them. (If you’re an author and want to join in, email me at croftwillow (at) yahoo (dot) com.)

(Oh, and it’s Shark Week btw–go out and hug a shark!)

Willow: What’s your favourite snack food (and/or drink) while writing?

Jadi Campbell: There are writers who snack while they write? I forget to eat. At some point my stomach growls and I know it’s time to shove back from the computer desk and go make lunch — or dinner.

Willow: What’s your most distracting “nemesis” when you’re trying to write?

Jadi Campbell: In a word: everything. If I’m not in a writing groove, I will happily scrub the sink. I try to convince myself that when I’m not writing, look! I’m doing something useful! If I’m desperate enough to scrub a sink, imagine how enticing it is to go outside or meet my friends. PS: When I’m in a writing groove, that desire to clean the apartment mysteriously vanishes.

Willow: If you could live anywhere in the world(s) or even another planet (real life or fictional), where (and when) would it be?

Jadi Campbell: Any spot where I can write with gorgeous scenery and good food will do. I like our 1,200-year-old town in southern Germany. I have serious wanderlust, and my husband and I love to travel. The hardest part of the coronavirus is that we can’t go explore a new part of the world.

Willow: If you could choose what animal (or plant) you could be reincarnated as, what would it be, and why?

Jadi Campbell: The loon. Once you’ve heard a loon calling in the wild, that voice will inform your imagination forever.

Willow: If you woke up and you were trapped in a painting for eternity, which one would you prefer it to be?

Jadi Campbell: A smallish Picasso painting of a street haunts me. That winding alley was filled with melancholy, promise, and timelessness. I don’t remember what museum I saw it in, or even what country. I haven’t been able to find the painting in an art book, and I’m pretty sure I’ll never see it again.

Thanks again, Jadi Campbell, for joining in my “Five Things Friday” blog feature. Visit her website at http://jadicampbell.com/, and read on for more information about her and her books!

Jadi Campbell is the author of four books: Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded. The Trail Back Out, her new collection of short stories, is available for purchase on August 23, 2020.

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 on one of these links to order a copy:

The Trail Back Out: USA

The Trail Back Out: Germany

Information on all my books is available here:

Jadi’s Books Amazon Page: USA

Jadi’s Books Amazon Page: Germany

The Trail Back Out is Available for Preorder!

It’s finally done: my first book in 4 years!

From tales of Eddie, high on LSD and trapped by “What Died in the Fridge” or a compulsive gambler hiding during a Category Five storm in “Better Weather”, to the luminous title story of two strangers meeting by chance in the backwoods during a pandemic, I wanted to describe the pain and humor of being alive. Included in this collection are “Rules to Live By”, a funny and deeply thoughtful story about what we choose to teach our children. I wonder about our responsibility to others as a hunter is shot and left for dead in “The Green Under the Snow”. In “Do Dreams Float?” a wife considers a hit-man’s offer of revenge. And the eternal search for happiness is carried out by a gloomy little girl nicknamed ‘Princess Rain Clouds’.

I finished these tales during the coronavirus lockdown. These are descriptions of everyday life in strange times. Whether during the upheaval of the last century or the present COVID-19 crisis, The Trail Back Out will guide you through a labyrinth of questions about how to live and love.

The Trail Back Out will be published as paperback and eBook for Kindle on August 23, 2020. The version for Kindle is available now for preorder. Click on one of these links to order a copy:

The Trail Back Out: USA

The Trail Back Out: Germany

Information on all my books is available here:

Jadi’s Books Amazon Page: USA

Jadi’s Books Amazon Page: Germany

I wish you all a safe and healthy autumn.

Happy reading,

Jadi

JQM Literary Chat Interview Part 2

My new collection of short stories is almost ready to publish. I can barely eat or sleep! In the meantime, here is Part 2 to my interview at JQM Literary Chat. Enjoy and stay cool in the heat.

 My Interview with JQM

A Cast of Thousands: Day Two

I remain in serious escapist mode, and in today’s post I continue to take us as far away as I can. I’m describing the magnificent Indian wedding  I attended in Mumbai just a few months ago.

The following night, the newlyweds held an evening reception for 500 guests at the same venue. A magician circulated around the room. The saris were a cross between Cinderella and the Arabian Nights. I saw really, really serious bling. It was a dazzling evening full of gorgeous, kind, friendly people. In the interest of privacy I am posting mostly photos that show the backs of gowns. These were taken with my old cell phone, so the quality’s not great. But these give an idea of how spectacular this celebration was!

The women who had taken my breath away the day of the wedding now wore evening saris. There are no words adequate to describing how gorgeous everyone appeared.

Once the event began the full bar stayed busy. I was served the largest gin and tonic I’ve ever had to drink: it was as big as my head. The drink was also one of the strongest I’ve ever tasted. I drank it and afterwards I immediately switched to white wine. Another g&t and I would have landed under a table.

I chatted with a large chocolatier-pastry chef who had worked in Switzerland. The woman who designed the bride’s clothes and the man who designed her jewelry. A professional jazz singer who had given her voice lessons.

The waiters worked both days and must have been exhausted. They circulated the room with appetizers served on trays of stone. The appetizers were wonderful: smoked salmon-asparagus-horseradish rolls. Lamb bites in tiny crusts. Spicy paneer. Corn fritters with salsa. Tikka chicken bites.

A full diner buffet included both vegetarian and meat dishes.  The buffet included a station carving up one leg of lamb after another, chopped into small strips and served au jus. There were various rice dishes, and breads freshly made on-the-spot (both days). Dhals. Another food station served chat: layers of potato patty with chutneys, chickpeas, cilantro. Another station served a variety of Mexican dishes. Other stations included vats of sautéed veggies. I didn’t even glance at the station with teriyaki dishes; the Indian food was just too good. A separate table held lots of desserts. I tried the chocolate mousse cups and the waffles with Nutella and fresh fruit: kiwi, mango, strawberries.

A waterfall is behind the beaded curtain. The sashes on the chairs were an elegant gray for the evening reception

My sister and I drank Sula, a surprisingly yummy Indian white wine. We were both delirious with how magical the evening felt, all those  beautiful people. When we left shortly before midnight the room had been converted into a dance floor….

… each outfit was even more beautiful …
…really stunning gowns

I will forever be grateful I was invited to attend an Indian wedding. The hosts (busy with the other 499 guests) were incredibly generous and gracious. My thanks to my dear friends in Mumbai and their family for allowing two visiting girls to share their joy.

NOTES: Text © Jadi Campbell 2020. Photos © Jadi Campbell and Pam Campbell.

To see Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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