A tin toy helicopter

Photographers dream of getting an opportunity to take pictures of animals from above. In Botswana you can book a helicopter in Maun to spot herds moving across the Okavango Delta. Uwe repeatedly mentioned how “we” could have the chance to see the delta from the air, and finally I agreed.

When I imagined this ride I thought of a normal helicopter, constructed of reassuringly thick and reinforced metal alloy. One with three seats in the front, three in the back. I pictured myself ensconced in a middle seat safely far from a sliding door that was propped open for the photographers. We’d be up in the skies for 45 minutes that would zip by.

But, no, the flight was in a helicopter less than half the size I’d expected. When I saw the little tin toy we were going to ride in, my stomach began to flip. Our tiny death trap had no middle seat — and no doors.

Thorvald, the pilot from Iceland. He moved to Botswana so he could fly tourists around in a little tin rotocraft

Okay, so it wasn’t tin.

But it sure felt like it. We were high in the sky, riding in a fragile toy helicopter. A miniature toy constructed out of some kind of light metal that would crush with the slightest wind. A toy without any doors or even a safety bar, for f***’s sake. The only thing between me and a sure death was the seat belt. And my husband had decided to go for it and booked an hour-long flight instead of the 45 minutes I thought “we’d” decided on.

“What do you hope for from your flight?” they asked.

I pointed at Uwe. “He wants to take pictures, and I just want to not faint or throw up.”

My husband was in the back seat in that version of Heaven photographers go to in these situations. I sat in front next to Thorvald with both hands firmly gripping the seat under me. Breathe! I reminded myself, followed very quickly by, Screw that. Just don’t pass out. Thorvald kept circling and banking so Uwe could get the best shots. Each time he banked, my stomach circled right along with the itty bitty ‘copter.

A lone fisherman. His boat was dangerously close to a pod of hippos

I looked down and figured, If this thing falls out of the sky, we’re toast. I might as well enjoy the last hour of my allotted time on Earth – especially if it’s not taking place on the ground. I made myself unclamp my fingers from the seat, and even leaned towards the (nonexistent) door.

The vistas took my breath away. Tracks in the delta as far as the eye could see, made and followed by migrating herds.

Verdant areas where the showers of the last two days had filled pools.

African buffalo, zebras and elephants roamed across the land.

Pods of hippos seen from above looked like floating lily pads.

When I was looking through Uwe’s photographs for this post, for the first time I saw this pic of two men carrying attachable doors across the runway. So there ARE doors if you insist on having them.

I don’t know if I would have insisted if I’d known that ahead of time. As it was, once Thorvald brought us without a bump back onto the earth, I looked at him and said, “Let’s go up again!”

NOTES: ©2023 Jadi Campbell. All photos ©2023 Uwe Hartmann. For more of Uwe’s photos from our trips and his photography, go to viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys,  Grounded and The Trail Back Out.

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

The Trail Back Out was the 2023 San Francisco Book Festival Winner for General Fiction, American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. 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 purchase my books.

The Great Tire Blow-Out

In Namibia we had to watch a short movie before they gave us our 4WD rental car. We’d never had this happen on a holiday before. EuropCar rental agency at the Windhoek Airport meant business: watch the film and sign a form saying you’d seen it, and then you’re handed the keys….

But not before you’re shown where to put the jack on the undercarriage, because chances are high you WILL have a flat tire before your trip is over.

and this was a good road

The roads are phenomenally bad, drivers go too fast, and before you know it you’ve blown a tire, crashed, or sit stuck in sand. The EuropCar film claimed that the rate of road deaths in Namibia, a country so sparsely populated only Mongolia has fewer people per square mile, is 50 times higher than in Europe. 

Oookay. Message received. We started off early in the morning for Sossusvlei and the world’s highest dunes. The main road out of Windhoek is fine, but the pavement quickly ended. It changed to a bumpy bad gravel road; most of the time we were the only car on it. In less than an hour we came across a jeep pulled over to the left (Namibians drive on the left) and a teary-faced woman waved us down. She’d flown into Windhoek a few hours ago, picked up her rental vehicle, and almost immediately gotten a flat tire.

No, I take that back. The tire was shredded. I mean, what remained had exploded. Of course Uwe helped her remove what was left and put on the spare. In the 40 minutes or so that we assisted her not a single car went by in either direction.

The black patch on the road is part of that shredded tire

I’m sorry my photo is so lousy. I was trying to be clever and use the panorama function on my cell phone camera to capture how in-the-middle-of-nowhere she’d broken down. But in any case: Oookay! The next message received! Always stop to assist a stranger, because that car could be you. We saw someone broken down almost every day.

It was a miracle we made it through Namibia and Botswana without ever getting a flat tire. When we returned the car to EuropCar 4 weeks later, they were surprised (and impressed) that it still had all the original tires.

This is my last post for 2023. Happy New Year everyone! May your only blow-out be the celebration tonight to ring out the old and ring in the new! See you in 2024!

— Jadi

NOTES: ©2023 Jadi Campbell. Photos ©2023 Uwe Hartmann. Uwe’s photography and his photos of our trips can be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys,  Grounded and The Trail Back Out.

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was the 2023 San Francisco Book Festival Winner for General Fiction, American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

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

11 September

I first published this post almost a decade ago. I reprint it as a prayer for our world. —Jadi

The anniversary of 9/11 is here.

I was back in the States when the attack occurred. When I returned to Germany a few weeks later, I was in turmoil. I felt all the contradictions of my life. I’m a resident alien on another continent. I’ve been the target of instant hate when someone found out I’m  American. This only has to happen once to convince you that prejudice is awful. What the hell was I doing so far away from my own country? What was going on in the world, and could anywhere feel safe? It seemed like everything was getting sucked into a swirling vortex. My identity as a US citizen, as a foreigner, as a human being, came crashing down.

A few months later my epidemiologist friend Elena came to Europe for a conference. I took an unplanned trip to Amsterdam with her. Maybe 2 days away would give me a break from how heavy life felt. Below is the account from those 2 days and how they affected me:

Friday Buddha, Schwedagon Pagoda, Yangon Burma
Friday planetary post, Schwedagon Pagoda, Yangon Burma

“I people-watch as we travel to Holland. On a German train near the border, the train car is full of local residents heading home. An African couple talk over their baby. Another young couple sit by me with their own child. The wife’s exquisite black scarf frames her face. Her husband reads from a small leather bound Koran. Both of them keep an eye on the baby carriage. The rest of the car is full with the usual students, professionals, commuters.

An old man goes into the WC. Later the door slides open without his realizing it. He stands helpless, then fumbles at the door. We all see the prosthetic leg strapped to his upper thigh. Everyone looks away. The door slides open again and he looks up, stricken. I rise and go to the door and close it. When the door inevitably opens again a few minutes later, the man with the Koran closes it for him.

A cell phone rings. The African man pulls out his phone and answers, then switches to English. I realize they’ve understood every word of the conversations Elena and I have been having about global health issues, world politics, and travel.

The woman in the headscarf looks at me steadily. When she finally catches my eye she holds me in a gaze of tenderness and our connectedness as human beings. We see one another for a few minutes, and then the train stops and they detrain.

The train reaches Amsterdam. I’ve been here before and always feel as if I’m coming home to an old friend. We walk along the canal streets, and brick building facades reflect in the Amstel as it flows under the bridges. The Egyptian bellhop at the hotel asks where we’re from. “I love this city! You meet people from all over the world,” he declares.

In 2 days Elena flies back to the US. Later that morning I stand waiting to catch the tram from our hotel. A dark-haired woman at the street bus stop carries a backpack. I offer her my tram pass; I won’t need it beyond the central train station. She thanks me, but says she’s heading home. She’s an Israeli airline stewardess, in Amsterdam for a few days’ holiday.

“I live in Tel Aviv, and I’m afraid to go out of my house,” she tells me. “Everyone is scared of more terrorist attacks there. The situation is out of control.” I listen to her and say, “The rest of the world says, ‘just make peace!’ If only it were so easy.”

Once I’m on board my train I read a Newsweek, then dive back into a novel. The quiet man next to me asks in English if this train stops at the Frankfurt airport. I offer him the magazine. We begin to talk: he is Iranian, in Germany for an international banking and finance conference. He lectures at the University of Cardiff. His wife is a dentist, he tells me. They live in Britain and go back to Iran, to their home in the northeast by the mountains at the Afghani border, each summer for vacation.

He lifts the suitcase at his feet and sets it on his lap. Opening it, he pulls out framed photographs of 2 smiling boys. “These are my children.” We discuss their names, their ages, their personalities. At the airport station he leaves for his flight, and I wish him a safe trip home.

The woman sitting across from us changes trains with me in Mannheim. We stand shivering in the evening air on the platform. She is a Dutch physical therapist, doing an apprenticeship in Munich. She asks what I think of Holland.  We talk about the coffee shops. I mention the small scale that guides decision-making in her country. I give her my leftover Dutch coins and she buys the tram pass from me.

Late that night I finally arrive home. In the space of 48 hours I touched on what seemed to be the entire planet. And I didn’t learn the names of any of the people who talked to me.

Travel isn’t just seeing and exploring other countries and cultures or the threads that weave those peoples’ histories with the present. Travel is the journey we make every day into other people, other lives, other ways of being and thinking and feeling.

Travel is about the interconnectedness of us all. Each person with whom we interact leaves behind traces that can change the world. Travel is about holding onto hope.

A part of me remains in every place I’ve ever stood. My image was impressed in a snow angel I made up in the Arctic Circle, which vanished years ago. But who can say if some part of my spirit still wavers there like the Northern Lights? Or in my interactions with all those people on the trains between Stuttgart and Amsterdam? I don’t know…. but we should live as if every act matters, as if choosing to love and be open to the rest of the world and each other can transform us.”

Bagan, Burma

NOTE: This post originally marked my first year of blogging. I’m still at it, years later. Thanks for your support.  — Jadi © Jadi Campbell 2023. Previously published as Amsterdam. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. Uwe’s photos of our trips and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, The Trail Back Out and Grounded. 

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was the 2023 San Francisco Book Festival Winner for General Fiction, American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. 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 purchase my books.

 

Peter James Henry Solomon + the Supreme Leader Grand Marshal

Peter Benenson was born Peter James Henry Solomon on July 31, 1921 in London, England. Poet WH Auden was his private tutor as a boy. Benenson was a cryptographer during WWII and later worked as a lawyer.

He founded Amnesty International in 1961. Here, in his article The Forgotten Prisoners are the grounds for creating the NGO: “Open your newspaper any day of the week and you will find a story from somewhere of someone being imprisoned, tortured or executed because his opinions or religion are unacceptable to his government… The newspaper reader feels a sickening sense of impotence. Yet if these feelings of disgust could be united into common action, something effective could be done.”

To that end, AI supporters write letters and focus public opinion on governments to stop repression, torture, and the denial of human rights.

Amnesty International was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 and the UN’s Prize in the Field of Human Rights the following year. Beneson refused all personal honours; his family convinced him to accept the Pride of Britain Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2001.

More than 10,000,000 members around the globe work for “a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments.” In his honor and that of prisoners of politics, religion, or conscience all around the world I am reprinting a post I wrote visiting the  surreal North Korean pavilion at the 2010 World Expo held in Shanghai, China. – Jadi

We were heading to China, and the World Expo was taking place in Shanghai that year. Oh man, did I ever want to go. When I was a kid, my family made the trip to the World’s Fair in New York City. I still remember the excitement of the Space Park, the talking, moving Lincoln robot statue in the Illinois Pavilion, and the Bel-Gem Brussels waffles smothered in strawberries and whipped cream that we all ate for the first time. [1]

Expo in Shanghai! Surely we had to see it. But there was just one teeny problem: all the on-line sources for tickets had been sold out for months. I wrote my friend Weiyu in Beijing and asked her, could she get us tickets? She checked in the capitol… all the ticket options there were sold out, too! But, ever resourceful, she called in a favor from a friend who lived in Shanghai, and he managed to secure two tickets for the time period we’d be visiting.

With passports in hand (your passport allowed you to skip the unbelievably long lines in front of most of the pavilions and enter your country’s VIP door), we headed out early in the morning.

That Expo was terrific. Some countries had put incredible thought and creativity into their presentations. And visiting Expo was a way to glimpse certain countries in places that I feel pretty sure I’ll never visit in real life.

Like North Korea. North Korea is shrouded in permanent mystery. I don’t know if their pavilion at the Shanghai Expo cleared up many of the mists, but it was an eye-opener in other ways.

I had no idea that Jeff Koons designed their central fountain, for instance. [2] Frolicking naked cherubs (minus the wings) showed off their muscular buttocks. They held hands in a circle as they released a bird. Cherubs and bird all gazed up into the heavens…. I have a funny bone that gets amused by kitsch, and from the second I saw that fountain my funny bone began to tickle. I started laughing and couldn’t stop.

The colored lights were an especially thoughtful finishing touch

The selection of literature for sale was slim on choice but heavy on message. Who can forget that classic of North Korean literature, “The Immortal Woman Revolutionary”?

Who doesn’t know and love The Immortal Woman Revolutionary

The dour saleswoman didn’t crack a smile. Maybe humor doesn’t translate as easily as I’d hoped. Or maybe she knew there’s nothing in North Korea to laugh about.

In memory of Peter Benenson, 31 July 1921 – 25 February 2005

NOTES: To learn more: amnesty.org, Amnesty International [1] The Vatican allowed Michelangelo’s Pieta to travel for the 1964 World’s Fair. Viewers stood on a moving walkway to see it. I can still remember seeing it there. [2] Not really. I have no idea if Jeff Koons was consulted on that fountain’s design. But I  laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. ©Jadi Campbell 2018. Previously published as The Pavilion. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out.

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was the 2023 San Francisco Book Festival Winner for General Fiction, American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. 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 purchase my books.

 

Today’s Birthday: Robin McLaurin Williams

The brilliant Robin Williams was born on July 21, 1951 in Chicago. In honor of his birthday and his incredible gifts, here is my original post written at the news of his death.  – Jadi

Feste the Fool: “This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen.” —Shakespeare King Lear, Act III, Scene 4

Robin Williams is dead. He killed himself.

Both of these statements shock and sadden me. Put together, they are almost unbearable. Since his passing the nights have been cold indeed, and it’s taken days to reach a place where I can try to write about him.

Caren Miosga is an anchor for the major evening news program in Germany, and German journalism is a serious business. Caren reported the news of his death, barefoot and standing on top of her news desk. “O Captain! My Captain!” she recited from there. There is no more fitting way to salute him.

I remember when he burst onto the world stage. He was incredibly funny, his wit like lightening. His brain and mouth moved so fast that it still takes repeat viewing (and listening) to catch up to him. And even then you wonder how he could improvise like that. He would recite Shakespeare – and play all the roles himself.

A good word to describe him is irrepressible. Robin seemed impossible to hold back, stop, or control. And he embodied the next meaning of the word: very lively and cheerful. But like all clowns he knew the flip side of laughter is sadness. He was a fiercely observant social critic and he spoke about what he saw. As our greatest court jesters have always done, Robin told us the truth.

During the 1980s I lived in San Francisco, and I remember going with friends to the newly opened Hard Rock Café. As we sat there, a murmur rippled through the big room. Robin Williams, two women, and two very young children had just been seated for lunch. As the news spread, people stopped eating and turned in their chairs to stare.

Robin was a guy who’d simply come in for lunch, and looked uncomfortable with all the attention. But he signed autographs and smiled. I was struck by how youthful he looked, and how shy. He didn’t have a glamorous aura. I tried to figure out what was remarkable about how he looked. In the end, I was startled by a sense that he was terribly vulnerable.

And that is the secret to his magic. Robin Williams didn’t just make us laugh. He made us feel the absurdity of our prejudices and fears, and yes, our hopes and desires, too. He reminded us at all times of our humanity. He was searingly honest about his own short comings and dreams. He turned himself inside out with a candor and lovingkindness that made his humor a healing force.

Our world is a sadder place for his passing. It’s a better place for his having lived and shared his immense gifts with us.

He is already greatly missed.

In memory of Robin McLaurin Williams 21 July 1951 – 11 August 2014

NOTES: ©2014 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as  The Death of Robin Williams. Uwe’s photos of our trips and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, The Trail Back Out and Grounded.

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was the 2023 San Francisco Book Festival Winner for General Fiction, American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. 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 purchase my books.

 

Today’s Birthday: Eric Arthur Blair

Eric Arthur Blair, aka George Orwell, was an English novelist, essayist, journalist and keen social critic, born on June 25, 1903 in Motihari, India during the British Raj. His life and writings were strongly influenced by his years working as an imperial police officer in occupied Burma, at the time also still a province of British India. Orwell’s works include Burmese Days, Animal Farm, and 1984. In his honor I give you one of the posts I wrote after our visit to Burma, currently ruled by a military regime, currently known as Myanmar. – Jadi

We love travel. I refer to traveling to new cultures and places as connecting the dots. With each trip I feel a little more connected to the world at large and to the various dots that make up my picture of this planet and we who inhabit it.

While in Burma, we took a boat up the Irrawaddy River from Mandalay to Mingun for the day. Yet another fallen kingdom, Mingun is reknowned for the largest functioning bell in the world. It weighs in at 55,555 viss (90,718 kilograms or 199,999 pounds). The sound is a deep claaangg, rung by thumping the bell hard on the lip with a mallet. Mingun is also famous for the king who bankrupted his people with an attempt to outdo every shrine-builder who’d ever lived: King Bodawpaya wanted to build the huge stupa known as Mingun Pahtodawgyi.

It would be the highest in the world, a magnificent 150 meters tall, dwarfing everything built prior to it.

How the stupa would have appeared finished
How the stupa would have appeared finished

Work began in 1790.

King Bodawpaya never finished his religious edifice. He ran out of funds; or, halted construction due to a prophesy that his realm would end when the building was completed; or, that completing the stupa would signal his death. An earthquake on March 23, 1839 dislodged the huge bell and damaged the structure beyond saving. The Mingun Pahtodawgyi became the world’s largest pile of bricks…

D30_2884_0200
Mingun Pahtodawgyi. Can you spot the teeny tiny humans in the photograph?

The structure stands, all semi-finished 50 meters (150 feet) of it, roughly a third of the original planned height.

It’s a holy place and the faithful still come to worship. And the curious come to climb it [enter Jadi and Uwe, stage right]. Now, at any sacred Buddhist site, you remove your shoes at the base of the structure.

Going up, sir?
Going up, sir?

And you climb the stairs, barefoot, and then clambor on the ruins, barefoot, for one truly awe-inspiring view of the Irrawaddy River and the surrounding countryside.

View of the Irrawaddy River
View of the Irrawaddy River and several of Mingun’s gorgeous temples

Shan pilgrims in traditional outfits had also climbed the stupa and gave us the gift of their smiles and waves.

D30_2876_0200

Shan pilgrims
Shan pilgrims

It was a magnificent afternoon and yet another highlight of our four weeks in Burma.

Picnicking on the Edge
Picnicking on the Edge

It wasn’t until we were safely home again that I got a good look at Uwe’s photographs.

Go on, I dare you
Go on, I dare you
Just a few small jumps and you’re there

There was a photo I had taken, too.

Hope those bricks are stable!
Hope those bricks are stable!

In memory of George Orwell, 25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2013. Previously published as The World’s Largest Pile of Bricks. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. Reading this post is bittersweet. Burma is wracked by a terrible civil war. We wouldn’t be allowed to make this trip now. More pictures from our trip to Burma, and of Uwe’s photography, may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out.

Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. 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 purchase my books.

Today’s Birthday: Maurice Bernard Sendak

Illustrator/author Maurice Sendak was born on 10 June, 1928 in England. In his honor I give you the post I wrote upon hearing that he had died. – Jadi

My Sister & Maurice Sendak

Our first experiences learning to speak seem to involve rhymes. [Twinkle twinkle and Dr. Suess, anyone?] We recite as children, loving language’s sing-song chants.

One of the very first pieces I memorized as a child (to this day I can recite it) was ‘The Cow’ from A Child’s Garden of Verses and Underwoods by Robert Louis Stevenson, printed in 1913.

 The Cow
The friendly cow all red and white
  I love with all my heart:
She gives me cream with all her might,
  To eat with apple-tart.
She wanders lowing here and there,

         5

  And yet she cannot stray,
All in the pleasant open air,
  The pleasant light of day;
And blown by all the winds that pass
  And wet with all the showers,

  10

She walks among the meadow grass
  And eats the meadow flowers.

Can’t you see her?? In my child’s brain she was white and a funny shade of red. (Who ever heard of a red cow? I mean, really.) She was named Flossie, or Maisie, or Bessie. Placid Maisie meanders in a huge field, chewing her cud and surrounded by fairy rings of little flowers.

I have to be in the right mood for poetry, but I still have the used copy of The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry from my college days of long ago. (How long ago? Decades. A couple of ’em.) My edition of Robert Frost’s complete works came to me when my mother died. When I read Frost, his poems of New England keep me linked to her, too.

Emily Dickinson still knocks me out, and every word Shakespeare penned is poetry in exalted form.

Poetry is emotion and experience expressed in crystalline shapes, no matter whether it’s metered or free verse. Prose works by poets betray themselves through the beauty of the writing. Think of The English Patient. I read that book slower and slower, and found myself rereading pages over and over, savoring Ondaatje’s mastery with language. Or anything by Ray Bradbury: each of his strange magical visions contains a goodly dose of poetry.

Hmm. I just went back and read what I’ve got here so far… Scratch the comment about needing to be in a certain mood to read poetry.

***

The Muses pay a very special visit on those they gift with the ability to speak through poems. For me it’s the hardest of all forms of writing. Sadly, the poetic Muses Erato (love poetry), Calliope (epic poetry), Euterpe (songs and elegiac poetry), and their sister Polyhymnia (hymns and sacred poetry) just don’t knock on my door more than once a decade or so. An impulse to even attempt a poem is the sighting and citing of a rare bird. The last time, and it came over me in a total rush of surprise and inspiration, was the death of Maurice Sendak.

File:Sendak illustration.gif

(Photo from Wikipedia)

Mr. Sendak accompanied my childhood and probably yours, too, and he was particularly part of my sister Pam’s early years. I remember his Nutshell Library books, extra small to fit the hands of children. There were 4 of them: Alligators All Around, Chicken Soup With Rice, One Was Johnny, and Pierre (A Cautionary Tale). Pammy read them repeatedly, relating especially to the contrary Pierre. A few years ago I spotted an interview with Sendak in The New York Times (click here for the interview).

The article brought back those little books and how much my sister loved Maurice Sendak. I promptly sent the link to Pam and we spent several weeks emailing back and forth about his wonderful art and our childhood memories.

In May 2012, Maurice passed away. My sister was teaching in Japan; had she heard yet? For some reason I wanted to be the person to break the news to her. I debated how to contact Pam and gently let her know.

The next morning I awoke preoccupied with way too much to do. I began my tasks with the radio on. NPR mentioned that Terry Gross was doing a special Fresh Air show in honor of Maurice Sendak’s passing (a much older interview with Sendak and a more recent one recorded not long before his death). Despite really having no time to spare, I sat down to give 5 minutes to Sendak.

An hour later I still sat. By now tears were streaming down my face. Sendak’s wise, sweet old voice came over the airways, speaking of the secret fears of children, of his inability to believe in God after the horrors of the Holocaust (he lost his entire extended family), his more than half a century with the man he loved, Dr. Eugene Glynn, a NYC psychoanalyst his parents never knew about… Sendak told his story as the tears continued to pour.

I forgot everything, the chores that had seemed so important that morning, the things I had wanted to cross off my to-do list that day. The interview ended, I got shakily out of my chair, found some tissues and blew my nose, wiped my eyes, and sat down to write my sister. “Pam,” I said, “I just heard an incredibly moving interview with Maurice Sendak. He’s died, and I wanted you to get the news from me…. but really you need to hear this interview and listen to his voice.”

And as I sat, a Muse spoke. I wrote the first version of the following poem in one take.

Maurice

Maurice Sendak

Your words and drawings,

depictions transcribe

the soul&depths

of my sister, Pammy.

You died yesterday,

83 years old and not a day

older than the children now grown

adults weeping, mourning

your passing theirs passing

something of childhood gone beyond

retrieving.

Maurice.

I listen to recordings of your voice

You speak, the New Yorker

in you       so     obvious

I love your sense of place

your first generation voice

of Polish immigrants

of your humanity

your humility

your atheism

your embrasure of

a definition of the world

in which God is

everywhere

in the Wild Things

where they are

My Wild Things salute you.

My Wild Things weep.

Gnash our teeth.

Our King has left us.

Our island, and not just New York

is so much smaller with your passing.

We will cook a meal

Eat a supper and

wish

You were still with us.

In loving memory of Maurice Sendak, June 10, 1928 to May 8, 2012

NOTES: © 2013 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as My Sister and Maurice Sendak. To see Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, The Trail Back Out and Grounded.

Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. 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 purchase my books.

 

Today’s Birthday: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was founded on December 14, 1950 to help millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes following WWII. In 1954, the UNHCR was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Their headquarters are located in Geneva, Switzerland. The work of the organization to protect and help refugees all over the globe is more vital than ever. You can donate by clicking on this link: Donate.unhcr.org

In honor of the work that the UNHCFR tirelessly does on behalf of our world, I am reprinting the post I wrote about why I decided to offer trauma massage for refugees. – Jadi

After more than a decade, it was back. An insidious, slowly increasing unease, a worried feeling that the world was spinning out of control. For months I’d watched news reports about refugees drowning off the coast in places like Libya or Lampadusa, Italy.

The reports came with more frequency, their tone more urgent. One night I saw the tragic footage of a small child, lifeless where he’d washed up on a beach in Turkey.

That Turkish beach is in Bodrum, and I once set foot there. Two years after I got married we spent a vacation in Turkey. Uwe and I began with the magic of Istanbul. We visited ancient Greek and Roman ruins, took off our shoes at the Blue Mosque, and travelled down the coast as tourists on a local bus line. At rest stops the driver came around with rose water for passengers to wash their hands and faces.

We bought rugs in Bodrum and had them shipped home. I joked about magic carpet rides. We put a wool rug I’d chosen in the center of our living room. Its wavy stripes had reminded me of the ribbon candy my grandparents always gave us when we visited.

IMG_7568

Now, when I looked from the television to the floor, I saw waves in a treacherous ocean. I saw the long voyage of those desperately trying to save themselves and their families from wars.

Images of bombs and flight began to haunt my dreams. I had trouble sleeping and for a while I stopped watching the news. It was too close. The borders between frivolous holidays and grim realities had blurred. Actually, they’ve never really existed to begin with.

I was slipping into a spiral of feeling overwhelmed, and helpless, and very sad.

A German friend came for her monthly massage. “I’ve begun volunteering with refugees here,” she said. We talked through much of the session and I asked question after question, curious to know how she came to the decision to help refugees. I began to rethink how to respond to my encroaching depression and what I could do.

I talked it over with Uwe. A few weeks later, I called the Rathaus (Town Hall) to offer my services.

NOTES: © 2015 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Helping Refugees: Part One. I wrote an entire thread on helping refugees if you want to read further. Uwe’s images from our trips and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. 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 purchase my books.

 

 

Remember: Keep Cool

I went to Berlin recently to meet a friend for five days. Berlin is one of my favorite, favorite cities. Which is saying a lot…

I go back often, and somehow a visit isn’t quite complete unless I go to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche. It’s  a bombed church that has been left as a memorial to the war – any war –

Right next to it is a newer church. From the outside the chapel is unremarkable. Almost ugly, even. But when you enter it, the deep blue squares of light with their underlying pigments of color are glorious.

The colors seem to move and change as you watch: ruby red, emerald green and yellow. [1]

See the shifts in color?

Europe is in the middle of a heat wave. Today is going to be the scorcher of the year – so far! I’m doing whatever I can to keep out of the heat. Looking at this photo of blues helps.

Remember, wherever you are: be cool.

NOTES: [1] The glass maker was inspired by the stained glass window colors in Chartres Cathedral. © Jadi Campbell 2022. Uwe’s photos of our trips and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network and with a Red Ribbon by the 2021 Wishing Shelf Book Awards of England. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, as well as a Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book Awards. Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award.

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

 

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross + The Air in My Living Room

Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was born on July 8, 1926 in Zürich, Switzerland. She pioneered near-death studies and worked with the terminally ill. Kübler-Ross published the ground-breaking book On Death and Dying  in 1969. The book describes grief as a process that may include five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Time magazine named Dr. Kübler-Ross ‘one of the “100 Most Important Thinkers” of the 20th century’. In her honor I am reprinting the post I wrote after the death of my mother-in-law. – Jadi 

Her chair is in our living room. I curl up in it cross-legged; the air around it is empty.

I wash the leather cushion and back with a damp cloth. It swivels under my touch, then stills.

Her limbs did too, shortly before she died. I gave her the ritual of a final loving massage. It was gentle touch, my palm on her forehead, my hand over her heart.

Her ragged breathing calmed. I found myself matching her breaths. You can go, it’s okay. I thought those words, and said them aloud.

Her breaths slowed. In, out. In. Out. In….. out. In.

And just like that, she was gone.

Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. A hole in the everyday has punched through the solar plexus of life’s waistcoat. I discover I can’t fill the resulting void.

My mother-in-law and I breathed together, the same air, for 24 years. I’m not able to breathe back out, because Mama’s no longer here to do it with me.

In memory of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, July 8, 1926 – August 24, 2004

NOTES: © 2016 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Breath.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network and with a Red Ribbon by the 2021 Wishing Shelf Book Awards of England. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, as well as a Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book Awards. Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award.

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

 

 

%d bloggers like this: