Today’s Birthday: Annelies Marie Frank

Anne Frank was born on June 12, 1929 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Her unexpectedly discovered journal The Diary of Anne Frank is a testament to the endurance of the human spirit. In honor of her life I am reprinting my first post about Stolpersteine, the Stumbling Stones laid throughout the world to remember the lives of those killed by repressive regimes. – Jadi

***

She placed her unbandaged left hand over his on the table top. “Don’t think I’m only a cynic. If I lost my faith in nations, I find huge bravery and kindness in individuals. I kept my faith – and how can that be, after what religion did to my country? But I did. I believe in God. You saved my life so I am saved again. It’s more than a woman could hope for.” She squeezed his hand. “How long do you stay in Stuttgart?”

For the first time his regret about leaving had to do with a person and not with his phobia. “I should take a train tomorrow. Actually, I’m scared to fly,” Guy admitted. “I was in a forced landing once. I’m afraid of being in another.”

“Why fear a statistic chance? Why worry about an abstraction?” Nadia’s shoulders rose and fell in the Eastern European’s shrug, a slow, weary movement that expressed the futility of every question. “Think about the poor people who are in tsunamis. Or a war zone, where real fear is to think, how do you keep walking on the street as a rocket hits somewhere near, or you hear thwack!, and the person in front of you falls down? First you think, this time it isn’t me. It took years for me to stop looking over my shoulder. Stuttgart is civilized, but even here I stumble over Stolpersteine.”

“Over what?”

“Stolpersteine.”

Guy shook his head. “Never heard of it.”

“Them. Come, I will show you. There are some up around the corner.” Nadia refused to explain further.

She insisted on paying the bill and tucked her arm in his as the two of them headed up the Königstrasse. She led him to a stop in front of a store. “What do you see?”

Guy saw Europeans out Christmas shopping, happy people laughing and drinking glühwein, store windows filled with beautifully displayed consumer goods. Was it something special about the storefront? He shifted his weight and his heel came down on an uneven spot in the cement. When he glanced down, Guy saw gold cubes embedded in the sidewalk. He squatted to get a better look. Königstrasse 60, a stone with the name of Clothilde Mannheimer, another beside it for Jakob Mannheimer.

Nadia crouched down next to him. “The Mannheimers lived in this building. They were moved by train to Theresienstadt and died in the concentration camp there,” she translated. “These are their Stolpersteine, their stumbling stones. Wherever we go, we stumble over reminders of the past. The stones make sure we don’t forget the dead, these make sure that people today can’t push the dead from our memories.”

Guy traced the imprint of the names. The little golden cubes were weightier than their size. “Are there more?”

“All over Germany. Other countries, too. The Stolpersteine groups wish to mark the last free place where the persons lived, not where they were sent. Sometimes a family asks for a stumbling block; sometimes a local group did research for victims. And Stolpersteine are for everyone. Especially the Jews, but also the Behinderte, the ones with handicaps,” she corrected herself, “the mentally slow or physically handicapped. And gypsies, Communists. All were killed or did have to leave.”

“Knowing all this it wasn’t hard for you to become a German citizen?”

She gave another slow Eastern European shrug. “I gave up my old passport a decade ago. It was less hard than I expected. My home country is one in the heart.” – from the chapter What A Guy in Tsunami Cowboys, longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award.

A newly laid Stolperstein
A newly laid Stolperstein

In memory of Anne Frank, 12 June 1929 – February or March 1945

NOTES: Text and Photos Copyright © 2015 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Stolpersteine 1: Tsunami Cowboys’ Stumbling Stones. 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

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. 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.

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

 

That Collection of Soaps

Putin and Ukraine are the latest example in a long sad line of history. Another madman invades his neighbors.

The past repeats itself.

We watch the news each night and wonder, will Putin resort to dropping nukes? Or will he let his despot buddy Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko push the button in Belorussia? I watch the maps showing a 50 kilometer long procession of tanks heading inexorably towards Kyiv. Ukraine is the country on the other side of Poland, which is the country on the other side of – us.

I take walks. I do the daily shopping and welcome my routines. Yesterday morning, coming around the corner I saw stacks and stacks of boxes in the plaza in front of our Town Hall. I went over and checked them out. They looked like supplies, the kind you gather and send as disaster relief or to refugee camps.

Back at home I immediately clicked into our town’s Rathaus website. I guessed correctly: our town square is Ground Zero for goods to send east. The Ukrainians need sleeping bags, clothes, shoes, socks, coats, blankets, and food, and bottled water, and toys, and games, and (this one just about did me in) stuffed animals for little children.

The invaded Ukrainians need bandages and medicine and soap and toothbrushes and combs. I have a collection of these items along with pocket sewing kits, all saved in case a house guest spending the night forgot to bring their own from home.

… Or  someone in a war zone who left their house without the time to consider such mundane articles as the bombs began to fall…

I made a package and labeled everything in German and English. This morning on my way to the plaza I stopped at a bakery and bought some Butterbrezeln and belegtes Brotchen (buttered pretzels and sandwiches). The Rathaus website suggested snacks for the volunteers would be appreciated.

This morning at 9:00 workers are loading a giant transport truck. Over a dozen volunteers are packing boxes, sorting items into piles (a large one of sleeping bags). I set my little bag on a long table where a sign hung saying, Medikamenten und Hygiene. Someone directed me to place the bakery items by the coffee machine set up for the volunteers. A huge bag filled with pretzels was already there.

The transport truck in the foreground

And I’m crying as I write this, even as I think in the worst of times some people show their finest qualities.

The truck leaves tomorrow afternoon and is scheduled to arrive on the Polish-Ukrainian border on Monday. The action is organized by the Heck Spedition GmbH and the international YMCA. This is a time  to come together and give aid where we can, in whatever ways we can.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2022.

Here is the information from the Rathaus website.

Hilfstranport für ukrainische Kriegsflüchtlinge

Für einen Hilfstransport nach Medyka an der polnisch-ukrainischen Grenze sammelt die Heck Spedition GmbH, unterstützt durch den CVJM, von Mittwoch bis Freitag, 2. bis 4. März 2022, Schlafsäcke, warme Kleidung, Schuhe, Socken, neue Unterwäsche, Decken, Riegel, Babybedarf, Pampers, Spielsachen, Kuscheltiere, Bürsten, Kämme, Medikamente, Pflaster, Verbände und ähnliches.

Sie können die Sachen zu den folgenden Annahmezeiten auf dem Gerlinger Rathausplatz abgeben:

  • Mittwoch, 02.03.2022, 13.00-19.00 Uhr
  • Donnerstag, 03.03.2022, 09.00-19.00 Uhr
  • Freitag, 04.03.2022, 09.00-15.00 Uhr

Wer den Organisatoren bei Annahme, Sortieren und Verpackung, helfen möchte, kommt einfach zu den Annahmezeiten auf den Rathausplatz. Willkommen sind auch kleine Snacks zur Stärkung der Helferinnen und Helfer.

Der Transport wird am Freitag, 4. März 2022, starten und soll am Montagmorgen am Zielort eintreffen.

Kontakt: Heck Spedition GmbH, Telefonnummer 07156/43580

Wir danken allen Spenderinnen und Spendern sowie allen Helferinnen und Helfern für ihre Unterstützung an den Aktionen!

Today’s Birthday: Nicholas Berkeley Mason

Nicholas Berkeley Mason was born 27 January 1944 in Edgbaston, Birmingham, England. He is an English drummer and founding member of the progressive rock band Pink Floyd, and the only member to appear on every single album. I  heard Nick Mason play with his current band Saucerful of Secrets. In his honor I am reprinting the post I wrote in which soccer, Pink Floyd, and pizza met…. – Jadi

YES, I already have tickets for the next time he comes to town! Hell yes!

On July 4th, 2014 Germany made soccer history. They are the first country to ever make it to four World Cup Semi-Finals in a row. I’m back in the US for a visit, and watched that game early in the morning on my friend’s couch with the German flag in face paint on my cheeks and a German lei draped around my neck.

Soccer ball on the green field Royalty Free Stock PhotosSoccer ball on the green field Royalty Free Stock PhotosSoccer ball on the green field Royalty Free Stock PhotosSoccer ball on the green field Royalty Free Stock Photos

I came to soccer late. It wasn’t until after I moved to Europe in 1992 that I realized how exciting the World Cup is. The globe takes its soccer pretty seriously (understatement of the century!); I first became a fan out of a need to share in the experience or miss out on life for weeks at a time. When Germany hosted the World Cup in 2006, I became a fan for real. What great matches! What a party!

So here I am in 2014, cheering on everyone. I’ve cajoled my friends into going to pubs and restaurants with wide screen televisions, or watching at home. I was happy to see the USA make it through the elimination round in Group G (the Group of Death), ironically up against Ghana, Portugal, – and Germany. I rooted for both even as I knew Germany would take it.

During the next round I watched the Argentina-Belgium match on a Spanish speaking station. I had the volume turned low, but I love hearing the cheering and chanting of fans in the stands.

The sounds suddenly reminded me of Pink Floyd, of all things. I was 16 years old when Dark Side of the Moon was released, and if you know me that fact explains everything. [1] But Floyd’s earlier album (and that’s a word that really dates me) Meddle contains the song “Fearless” with a background of singing Liverpool F.C. fans. At the time I didn’t know from soccer. I was sure the sound had to be religious chanting, like the noise of saffron-robed Indians on a hillside in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Remember the scene in Dharmsala where they sing out notes and point at the sky? I somehow made a connection between religion, and Pink Floyd, and joyous tones.

Decades later I moved to Europe. When I heard the chants of fans in the stadiums, I realized with a start that “Fearless” is really about soccer.

So it’s all come full circle. I’m back for a visit in the country of my birth; I’m watching the land I currently call home kick butt and take names as they make sports history; and it’s all accompanied by a soundtrack that returns to me to one of the happiest times of my life.

GO TEAM !!!

NOTES: [1] EVERYTHING. © Jadi Campbell 2014. Previously published as Soccer, Religion, and Pink Floyd. Uwe’s photos of our trip to Japan and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de. A shout out to Mark O’Brien and American Dream Pizza in Corvallis for opening up the bar early so we could watch Germany make more history as they beat Brazil. 7-1, baby! Soccer ball image courtesy dreamstime. Cover art work for Pink Floyd’s Meddle, image courtesy of Wikipedia. Music video courtesy of YouTube. Go to my earlier post The Year the World Came to Party for more on soccer.

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. The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network. 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, and named a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

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

 

Staying Connected at the Holidays

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with electronic media. It has dumbed us down (and as climate change proves, we probably weren’t all that bright to begin with). It’s created a world populated by people who spend their time chasing ‘likes’.

But…. it helps me stay connected to my family. We’re scattered across three continents and four countries. It’s cool when we get to share our various parts of the world with each other. These days, being so far apart is a big-time bummer. The COVID crisis prevented us from reuniting, and I feel farther away than ever from my sisters and nephew.

So we talk twice a week, at an hour when across the globe Niko is getting home from the bar he owns, I’ve finished dinner, and Pam and Barb are eating breakfast or getting up. We always appreciate the calls when Niko checks in at two in the morning his time….

I don’t know how the rest of you manage to keep in touch with the people who matter to you. I only know that it DOES matter, perhaps more than ever before. Our world is fragile, and our lives have meaning because of who we allow into them. Go ahead: make that phone call or Zoom call or visit in person if you can. I am really, really looking forward to hugging my family members once again.

In the meantime, we chat.

Merry Christmas to you and your families, wherever you are!

 

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021.

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. The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network. 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, and is now a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

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

My Imaginary Friends: #10 A Golden Retriever

He was the world’s coolest dog. Our family pet Sam was a really, really smart golden retriever with a sense of humor. When we were kids, in the winter time he loved to track my youngest sister Barb. He’d go looking for her and then freeze so she couldn’t spot him sneaking up from behind. Sam got a running start, charged up from behind across the snow – and once he reached her, he’d ever so delicately stand up on his hind legs to put his front paws on her shoulders, very gently tap, and drop back to all fours and watch her tip forward.

Barb would do a face plant in the snow and come up crying, covered in so much snow that she looked like the Abominable Snowchild. Meanwhile, lined up in the living room at the sliding glass doors to watch (because Sam loved an audience), Barb’s sisters and parents would be crying too… with laughter.

Sam walked us to the corner each morning where we waited for the school bus. Kids on the bus  would already be lined up at the windows on the left hand side. Once the driver closed the doors and headed down the road, Sam raced him. He ran alongside the bus, all us kids cheering him on, until the driver turned at a street lined with hedges. Sam sailed through the air in an incredibly high, graceful jump over the hedge. I’d swear he was showing off…. and then, his display of doggie dynamism finished, he turned and headed back home.

The greatest dog in the world. When it was time to imagine a dog as the companion for Coreen, my traumatized survivor of an end of the world cult in Tsunami Cowboys, he had to be a golden retriever. – Jadi

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021. Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Competition

Prepare to meet Todd, a hero with dangerous fantasies. Coreen, trapped in a cult. Ronnie, dreaming other people’s futures. Guy, waiting for disaster at a Christmas Market. And Lynn, the connecting thread, taking a train with a seductive stranger. By turns terrifying and funny, this is the story of people riding life’s waves… the tsunami cowboys.

This link will get you there.

Books make great gifts! My other books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, 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. 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 and is now a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

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

My Imaginary Friends: #9 The Tidal Wave

Current events often find their way into my books. I wrote about the tsunami in Japan not long after it occurred. One of my characters in Tsunami Cowboys (the title I am most proud of thinking up!) can dream the future:

Ronnie’s coworker Yoshiko Sakei appeared in the next vision. Yoshiko came to the States for college and ended up marrying Erik Gross. She became an American citizen forty years ago. She’s nearing retirement, and she and Erik plan to move to Honshu. Yoshiko feels a secret guilt: she’s enjoyed the irresponsible freedom of a Japanese person living outside the home country.

Kyoto parade
Kyoto parade

Yoshiko tells Erik, “Let’s go back and care for my parents.” Erik likes the idea, because a Western man in Asia has lots of advantages. Gaigin aren’t expected to fit in.

They sell their home and plan to move as soon as Yoshiko stops working.

Miyajima
Miyajima
Kyoto train station
Kyoto train station
Kagoshima Aquarium
Kagoshima Aquarium

The vision shifts. Zen landscapes,

Bamboo forest
Bamboo forest
Zen garden
Zen garden

crowded city streets with tall buildings,

Tokyo
Tokyo

monks in yellow,

Kyoto temple
Kyoto temple

geishas in colorful kimonos,

Geishas

salarymen in somber business suits all kaleidoscope through the dream. A few exquisite pieces of lacquer ware and a hand painted folding screen decorate a small space.

Zen interior
Zen interior

Yoshiko and Erik sit at a table across from an old Japanese couple with gentle smiles and parchment paper skins. The four of them drink tea. In the next scene they lie asleep in blankets on spotless tatami mats.

All four open their eyes as the light wood of the house splinters into match sticks. They look shocked in Ronnie’s direction – and the dream blows apart.

– from my chapter Precognitious in Tsunami Cowboys.

Notes: © Jadi Campbell 2021. All photos and images © Uwe Hartmann. Uwe’s photos of our trip to Japan and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.  Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Books make great gifts!

The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network. 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 and is currently a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

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

The Trail Back Out is 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Finalist for Fiction: Short Story Collection

I am honored, awed, and humbled that my short story anthology just received its third distinction. I was notified that The Trail Back Out was selected as a Finalist for the 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award (Short Story Collection) by the Independent Author Network. Go to this link for the finalists and winners:

2021 IAN Book of the Year Awards

The Trail Back Out was also named a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist in Fiction: Anthologies for the American Book Fest. In addition, the title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

I’ve been going for long walks on the trails in the woods and orchards here, trying to absorb the news. The Trail Back Out is available for purchase and download.

NOTES: ©Jadi Campbell 2021. My other books are Grounded, Broken In: A Novel in Stories and Tsunami Cowboys.

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award.

Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts. And Broken In just received a second distinction, which will get its own post!

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

Here is what readers can expect: From tales of Eddie, high on LSD and trapped by “What Died in the Fridge”, and 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, the stories 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. The author examines our responsibility to others when 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”. In ten stories, Campbell paints vivid 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 guides the reader through a labyrinth of questions about how to live and love.

Today’s Birthday: The Oracle (aka Margaret Eleanor Atwood)

Margaret Atwood was born on November 18, 1939 in Ottowa, Canada. I read everything by her that I can get my hands on, and this post is in her honor.

I’m a life-time bookworm. If there was a support group for people addicted to books, I’d be the woman huddled in the chair who’s the first to raise a hand and announce, “Hi, my name is Jadi, and I’m a habitual reader.”

“Hi, Jadi!” the group would chant back.

Naturally, the long corona virus lockdown only encouraged my addiction. Get stuck in a situation where I can lay around and read all day?! Sweet!

I thought I’d try something new. A lot of my books are old (“Hi, my name is Jadi, and I can’t throw out or give away old books….”), so I’m reading them a last time and then – (sometimes) – make the painful decision to pass them along. There’s a terrific little free book exchange by the tram stop here in our town. It’s a repurposed British telephone booth, perfect for the job.

Of course, I’ve read and reread some of my books so many times that they are now old and battered and literally falling apart….

Yeah, time to order a new copy. I think this one might hold up for one last reread

Like The Handmaid’s Tale. I was devastated by Margaret Atwood’s book and devastating is the word I hear from everyone I know who’s read it. I  read the book when it was first released in 1985 and I’ve reread it over and over since then. She is prescient; she is one of our most important voices. Just read the news from around the world, starting with Texas.

Turns out that The Handmaid’s Tale is not a fantasy.

Writers like Atwood and their books, all books, deserve to be read and reread. I may find a support group, but I can’t give up my reading habit.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021. 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, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network. 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. 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.

My Imaginary Friends: #8 A Kid Parading in a Frog Suit

I probably marched in a half-dozen Halloween parades as a little kid. Our mom was full of energy and did things like sew matching Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee outfits for me and Pam. Another year we were Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy, complete with red yarn for hair. One Halloween she painted Barb up as a clown…and even provided her with a real cigar.

Mom once helped Pam make a papier-maché witch’s head complete with a long nose that had a wart on the end of it. Pam won the Most Horrible award that year!

Costumes got passed on down through the years. In those days you could still go to antique stores and rummage through trunks of musty-smelling old clothes: we scored blouses with whale-bone stays and jackets complete with mothballs and moth holes. But the costume of legend is a Halloween outfit from my dad Bobbo’s childhood. Bobbo had a full body frog costume that was green with yellow spots and had a matching head that buttoned onto the neck. The illusion was complete with a pair of swimming flippers that Mom dyed green (of course) with food coloring.

Best Halloween costume ever!

Bobbo’s costume sadly has gone missing but this is a mask I wore at the Oregon Country Fair. I felt completely at home in it

Once inside that suit, I was a frog. Literally, because an adult needed to unbutton it from the outside in order to extract the child inside.

Our grade school held an annual parade on the grounds and the town would come watch us march around the grass. But once my part of the line began moving, I had a problem. Actually, I had two problems. The flippers were adult-sized, and I was maybe eight years old. I kept tripping, because they wouldn’t stop sliding off my shoes…

I stumbled yet again and picked those flippers up off the grass for the last time and in desperation put them on over my hands, trying to catch up with the children ahead of me who I could see (kind of) through the eye holes in the frog mask which were located somewhere higher than my own eyes and meanwhile the head was growing hotter and hotter because I started to cry for a couple minutes and that in turn totally steamed up the enclosed space inside the mask which of course was nonporous because it was painted with some no-doubt noxious and maybe even toxic 1930’s paint mix…..

Half a century later all this found its way into my short story What Died in the Fridge. A wonderful postscript: when my oldest friend Doris read the book, she immediately recognized the scene!

Happy Halloween!

NOTES: © 2021 Jadi Campbell. Uwe’s images from our trips and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.  You’ll find What Died in the Fridge in my short story collection The Trail Back Out. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

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. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies for American Book Fest. 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 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts.

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

For My Friends Who Have Lost Loved Ones to COVID: Calling the Soul

Friends across the globe from all the stages of my life have lost parents, spouses, family members and loved ones to COVID. I have been thinking alot about the ways we are all tied to one another in joy, in grief, in loss, in trying to live together and ease one another’s pain. Here is a story about how a very different culture keeps people they care about literally connected to one another, in a ceremony that creates unity and restores harmony to both the individual and the community. For some reason this post has gotten a lot of views recently. I wrote the essay after several trips to Laos. May it offer some comfort and peace. — Jadi

 

Note the white cotton threads

When we visit the temples in Laos, we often see monks tying special white cotton strings to the wrist of a person’s right hand. Sometimes the monk ties connecting strings to whole groups of people. What are the strings, and what is their significance? The answer, it turns out, varies in the different regions of Laos (as well as the Sipsong Panna autonomous prefecture of the Tai Lü in the extreme south of Yunnan, China, and Northern and Isan Thai cultures). And the meaning depends on time and place….

Full moon Vientiane, Laos

The strings are tied in the Baci ceremony, and their significance depends on the occasion. Take weddings, for instance. According to an old Laotian legend, the cotton threads are tied to ensure a happy marriage. We each have a tree in the heavenly garden, and that tree has branches intertwined with your predestined partner. When our trees come to this earthly existence, the cotton threads binding them are cut and we’re born separated and alone. If you can find your soul mate again after searching for him or her, at your marriage you are rejoined by retying the thread.

In Laos threads are also tied on newborn babies and their mothers [1] or on people going home or departing from home, which explained the many men, women, and children wearing these bracelets we saw at airports. The ceremony is performed for specific life events: success, health (both for the cured and the sick), and annual festivals like the sacred Wax Castle Procession in Vientiane. We witnessed a high number of Baci ceremonies during that time. [2]

The ceremony is done after a death, too, to bring back any wandering  missing spirits and reinforce the harmony of the surviving family members.

The entire ceremony is rich is symbolism. The white color means purity, and the strings are believed to bind the 32 kwan, organs or parts to the soul, to prevent them from wandering away. The Baci ceremony is also known by the term su kwan, “calling of the soul”. [3] When kwan wander away from your body, this creates an imbalance in the soul that may lead to illness and bad luck.

Foundation stones are honored

The ceremonies take place in Buddhist temples, but kwan and the Baci ceremony predate Buddhism. [4] I’ve had strings tied to my right wrist in Buddhist and Hindu temples from Laos to India, but have never taken part in a Baci ceremony. Regardless, the white bracelet should be worn for at least three days. Then the threads can be unknotted or allowed to fall off on their own, but should never be cut.

Dedicated to my friends who have lost loved ones to the pandemic

NOTES: [1] A Baci ceremony for new mothers and their babies is performed to welcome the baby, and to recall any kwan that may have wandered away from the mother during the birth. [2] The Wax Castle Procession falls on an especially auspicious lunar calendar date: the full moon of the seventh lunar month. [3] Concept of Kwan: Kwan are components of the soul but have a more abstract meaning than this. The kwan have been variously described by Westerners as: “vital forces, giving harmony and balance to the body, or part of it”, “the private reality of the body, inherent in the life of men and animals from the moment of their birth,” and simply as “vital breath”. – Pom Outama Khampradith, Bounheng Inversin, and Tiao Nithakhong Somsanith, writing for Lao Heritage Foundation. P.S: Baci in Italian means kisses, and it’s also an awesome chocolate candy that contains a whole hazelnut at the center.

©Jadi Campbell 2018. Previously published as Laos White String Bracelets: The Baci Ceremony. All photos ©Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to  viewpics.de.

To learn more about kwan and the Baci ceremony: Laos-guide-999, Baci, UNESCO

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. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies for the American Book Fest. 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 2020 International Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts.