Drowning in Love (1)

“There’s only one song, and Adam and Eve wrote it; the rest is a variation on a theme.” – Keith Richards (McPherson, Ian. “Jagger/Richards: Songwriters”. http://www.timeisonourside.com/songwriting.html)

I’ve been thinking about relationships. There are many topics for writers to choose from, but love is the one we come back to over and over for inspiration, for affirmation, for stories to tell. Love makes the world go ’round. All you need is love. But as Shakespeare warns us in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “The course of true love never did run smooth”.

What happens to those of us needing love but terrified of the risks involved? How do we get what we need without giving up control? I created a female chef named Judy Diver, who stays in any relationship until the moment her partner says those three little words… and then she’s gone. As long as no one says “I love you”, things go on as usual. Until one day, when she drives out to meet Steve at a crowded city park on her day off…

Looms Large

Judy reached the wading pool. Parents young and old dangled tiny children by their waists down into the shallow water. Other adults lurched, strangely hunched from the back. She walked past and saw the tiny people gripping index fingers and attempting the great walk of the upright, little feet between those of their parents, everybody’s legs sloshing happily through the water. At least 70 children had to be crowding into the pool: the surface was a dazzling panorama of tender sunbonnets in every possible color and configuration of flowers and cartoon characters.

Finally she found Steve. He’d been waving at her for some minutes to get her attention. Judy waved back. He’d laid a large brown blanket on the grassy verge at the edge of the lake. Tree shade just covered half of the blanket.

The park lawns were filled with bodies seeking the heat like winter creatures coming out of a long hard hibernation, but everyone was in a good mood. A family had claimed the next section of grass. The mother determinedly lay on her stomach with her breasts nestled in a pillow and her chin propped on the backs of her hands. Her entire concentration was focused on a popular paper back mystery opened on the blanket in front of her.

Her husband was left to supervise their children. A boy sat just above the water by two little girls in matching lime green swimsuits. The sisters bobbed inside bright orange life rings as they played in the lake. Their father was propped on his left elbow, leaving his right hand free for the beer hidden in a stubby can cooler. “Keep to where I can see you,” he ordered, but he wasn’t too concerned. He was sure they would be in less danger of getting drowned than they were in of being trampled. “If you go in deeper, you don’t go in without the life rings!” Okays drifted up the lawn towards him and all three turned back to their games.

“You wouldn’t believe the road traffic!” Judy gave Steve a hug and set down the food she’d carried halfway around the lake looking for him.

“You wouldn’t believe the traffic here on the lake front.” Steve yawned loudly and stretched back out on the blanket. Judy nudged him with her foot as she unpacked the lunch. “Hey. Don’t go to sleep on me, I just got here.”

“No chance of falling asleep with this racket,” Steve assured her. It was true: the water out in the deeper part of the lake was filled with people swimming or floating on air mattresses, while closer to the shore line a hundred small children laughed and splashed and shrieked. They made a joyous sounding, truly loud racket.

It fit the afternoon though, the languid mood of summer time when shadows move slowly across park lawns and picnic blankets. A slight breeze riffled the water into little waves; each one would send small children shrieking excited back out of reach for a second or two. On blankets and towels all around them people turned on their sides like sunflowers following the rays of the sun, or curled like large sleeping cats. The mother remained absorbed in her paperback mystery. Her husband’s head lolled where he’d fallen asleep still propped on his side.

Steve and Judy played Old Maid, and Judy kept winning. She’d figured out a system for cheating as a child, and couldn’t stop laughing as Steve became more and more frustrated with each hand he lost. “Just one more round!” he kept insisting.

A low, insistent shriek broke Steve’s concentration. It was similar to the piercing sounds made all afternoon by the lungs of the small children who filled the park. This one sounded different, though, a wail preceding the announcement of a disaster.

He dropped his hand of cards and the blanket bunched as he jumped up. Steve got to the water just as the little boy lost the life ring he’d pulled away from his sister. The little girl gurgled and vanished under the surface. Out in the water the bright orange ring bobbed, now empty. The little boy stood up to his neck in the lake shrieking. The ring floated further out and away. His other sister began to scream; only she and Steve had seen what had happened.

Their voices were drowned under the hundreds of other shrieking, laughing children, tinny radio music and the baseball game being broadcasted on a loud speaker, all the chatter of a hot summer afternoon on a waterfront in a city park.

Steve ran into the lake. He swam in the direction of the floating life ring, hoping the little girl had sunk somewhere in the general vicinity. When he reached what he thought was the point where she’d gone under, he began to dive.

Visibility was murky under the surface. He swam with outstretched hands and eyes searching desperately for signs of a body. Something kicked him hard in the cheek, and Steve resurfaced choking. The small child snug in his life vest simply paddled on past Steve in the water and flailed with skinny arms; he hadn’t even noticed the adult under the surface. Steve gasped in more air and dove again.

This time he was luckier and spotted a lime green object wafting in the under current. Steve grabbed her by the first part he could clutch, which was her shoulder strap. He swam back to the surface with strong strokes. Steve pulled the child’s head into the crook of his arm and made his way back to the shore.

When he emerged from the lake everything sounded far away at first, as though God had pressed a button and the world had been put on mute. With a rush his hearing returned, and the sensation of his own raspy breathing. He felt the water running off of his clothes as he lay the child on the grass and felt for a pulse. She lay as limp as a deboned fish.

Steve pumped her chest and turned her body onto the side. The lake water she’d swallowed came up in a sudden gush, and the child began to cough. Steve let out a high laugh with a feeling of exhilaration: she was alive after all. She arched her back to take in new breaths of the air. As she breathed in Steve felt his vision come tunneling back, whistling in with her new air. Her lungs expanded and compressed, and the colors of the world dimmed and glowed brighter along the ragged edges of each one of her breaths. The multiple layers of colors in the kites flying overhead, the fluttering sound they made in the suddenly windy afternoon, the breeze creating gooseflesh over his entire body, and the shadows flying back and forth over the edge of the water were almost unbearable.

Nobody except Judy witnessed the rescue. There was simply too much other activity in the lake and on the shoreline. The child’s parents listened in dozy incomprehension as the girl’s little sister and brother hysterically tried to explain where she’d gone. Incomprehension turned to puzzlement, and to horror. They scanned the lake surface, frantic by the time they finally spotted Steve resuscitating their daughter. They rushed over, the father’s eyes spilling with tears even though he could see she was going to be fine.

“She’s alive? How could I have? What sort of parent? In just a matter of seconds?” He spoke in fractures, unfinished questions, knowing there could be no answer to the enormity of the monstrous disaster that had almost happened. His muscles shivered in hard spasms, matching Steve’s.

Steve had begun to shake so hard that he had to sit down abruptly, almost falling on the child as she tried to sit up. The father grabbed Steve by the arm and helped him sit while he pumped his hand over and over, a wordless thank you. Everyone except Judy was crying.

– from my short story “Looms Large” in Broken In: A Novel in Stories. Available online at amazon.com, amazon.de, and amazon in countries everywhere.

A Liebster Award, for Me?

A few days ago I gleefully told my husband, “Blogging is fun! There are such creative people out there and I’m having a blast discovering them!” And then the next day I received notice that Jaded Apothecary (someone who embodies creative) nominated me for a Liebster Award.

The Liebster Award is intended to recognize up-and-coming blogs, particularly those with fewer than 200 followers. The rules are as follows: Post 11 facts about yourself. Answer the questions posed by your nominator. Pass the award on to 11 new recipients. Pose 11 new questions to your bloggers.

Liebster Award

Next, post a copy of the badge on your blog (you can find several options by doing a Google image search for “Liebster Award”). Finish it all up by notifying your selected nominees, and be sure to include links to the originating blog, as well as to those of the new recipients.

First off, thanks to http://jadedapothecary.wordpress.com/ for the nomination. This mysterious blogger stays private while questioning the world in a funny and informed fashion. Jaded Apothecary, your own acceptance post for the award is a hard act to follow! Here are my answers to your 11 queries:

1. Do you feel like you were destined to become a writer? And by that I mean, do you kind of feel like that scene in Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit when Whoopi Goldberg tells Lauryn Hill that if she wakes up in the morning and can only think about singing, then she’s meant to be a singer? Is Whoopi Goldberg saying to you, “You’re meant to be a writer, girl!”…or guy?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since the age of 6. I took way too long to get serious about it.

2. Since I can’t cook, I’d love to read about your worst cooking disaster. Go on now. Make me feel better about myself.

It was a dessert soufflé. I mastered savory soufflés so easily that I thought, How hard could it be to make one for dessert? I disappeared into the kitchen with 2 baskets of strawberries and good intentions. Pride goeth before a fall… and fall is exactly what my soufflé did. I came back out 3 hours later (really) with something flat that had the color and consistency of a rubber eraser. That is the first and last time I ever tried to make a dessert soufflé as the failure scarred me for life!

3. If you were a tree, what tree would you be? And don’t you roll your eyes at me. They ask this question during corporate “development” sessions for a reason. I don’t know what that reason is, but still. I’d like to know your answer.

Sugar maple.

4. What’s the last television show you gave up on watching because you just couldn’t deal with it anymore?

24 Hours. The word ‘jingoistic’ comes to mind.

5. What’s your favorite holiday?

Thanksgiving, hands down.

6. Did you, like me, have a panic attack (but a good one) when you first realized that people in other countries were reading your work?

No, I had that panic attack when my husband first talked me into becoming a blogger.

7. If you could make a difference in the world (and I’m talking about a genuine, magical difference…not the Miss America crap), what would it be?

Convince people that we really are all connected. There is no “other”.

8. I can’t watch the commercial for the ASPCA without crying uncontrollably for 20 minutes, clutching my own dog and loving on him until he literally forces himself away from me, and, sometimes, placing a quick call to my therapist. Can you? I mean, it’s sad!

I leave the room when reports on animals caught in man-made disasters come on.

9. Do you have any friends in your life who date back to your childhood?

Yes!

10. What’s your favorite color, and what do you think it says about you as a person?

What does it say about me that I actually have several favorite colors?

11. When you travel, do you ever wish you could pull someone aside, open their suitcase, pull out a different outfit, throw it at them, and then send them to the restroom shouting, “You will change into this right now, because as things stand, you look ridiculous. Who let you believe this was okay? You’re in an airport, ma’am! Pajama jeans and an old Body Glove t-shirt are unacceptable!” Explain.

No. But I’ve wanted to strangle fellow travelers more than once for holding up the plane while they try to stuff their obnoxiously oversized carry-on luggage into the overhead bin. Which part of “must fit into space above or below the seat” did they not understand?

And here are 11 factoids about me:

(Photo from Wikipedia)

  1. I’m a southpaw.
  2. My father worked for the Forest Service, so as a kid I spent every summer in the woods.
  3. We had flying squirrels as pets every summer. (See #2)
  4. My siblings and I agree: we had the perfect childhoods. (See #2 & #3)
  5. I’ve probably watched the film Blade Runner 50 times.
  6. I used to speak conversational Spanish and Italian, but right now German takes up most of the brain space reserved for foreign languages.
  7. I can laugh at myself.
  8. I’ve been licensed as a massage therapist for 25 years. It’s the perfect work for me: it combines science (treatments for injuries, anatomy) with intuition (yes, there is a mind-body-spirit connection).
  9. I’m named for a grandfather who was struck by lightening – twice.
  10. I’m sometimes overcome with Happy Feet! (Steve Martin fans will get this reference.)
  11. My husband is German and no one does cake and coffee better than the Germans. For our stateside wedding party we had the bakery make 6 different cakes rather than the traditional white one. We had chocolate, coconut, yellow, spice, carrot cake, and so on… and asked the bakery to misspell our names on all but one of them. Since we’re Jadi & Uwe it was an easy request.

I nominate the following bloggers for the Liebster Award. Thanks to each of you for inspiring me, as well as giving me a good reason to turn on the laptop each morning:

  1. http://lasesana.wordpress.com/
  2. http://thatgirlwhoreadsbooks.com/
  3. http://cvheerden.wordpress.com/ Her wonderful blog Bridging Worlds currently has 120 followers and I’m happy that fact makes it eligible for this nomination.
  4. http://unpackedwriter.com/
  5. http://travel-stained.com/
  6. http://thinktome.wordpress.com/
  7. http://volunteerfringe.com/
  8. http://themodernmanuscript.wordpress.com/
  9. http://wearenotconnected.wordpress.com/
  10. http://alaskamexicoandbeyond.wordpress.com/
  11. http://windhorseblog.wordpress.com/

 Questions for my nominees:

  1. Do you want to live to be 100?
  2. If you dream that you can fly, where are you flying to?
  3. What is ‘your’ song?
  4. If you could climb in a time machine, where would you go?
  5. Do you need a private space to write, or can you write anywhere?
  6. Are there foods you absolutely refuse to eat?
  7. Do you have a book you reread over and over?
  8. What person or past experience makes you sentimental?
  9. What is the best vacation you’ve ever had?
  10. Do you believe in reincarnation?
  11. If yes, what do you hope (or worry) you’ll come back as? If no, what do you think comes next?

The Outback

In The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough vividly depicts a turn of the century sheep ranch in the Australian Outback. The hardships of working an unforgiving landscape, conditions that seem too extreme to be real, and the isolation are all accurately portrayed.

You’re already yawning, right?

All right then, how about this? In The Thorn Birds, young heroine Meggie and the priest Father Ralph de Bricassart, many years her senior, fall in love. Their life long passion is both forefront and backdrop to the fates of a family in the Outback.

That caught your attention!

I’m not usually one for the guilty pleasure of romance novels, but this one works on so many levels that it’s irresistible. Whether as romance, family saga, or historical portrayal, The Thorn Birds is a great read. It’s also accurate to a fault. As you read this book, you experience Australia’s hard climate along with McCullough’s characters.

Uwe and I drove through a small portion of the Western Australia Outback. Our goal was the gold mining town of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and we had a long, stop-every-3-hours to stretch our legs drive to do. The Coolgardie-Esperance Highway goes on with no bends or turns (and very few trees).

We halted briefly in Norseman

Norseman, Western Australia

and purchased sandwiches and drinks for a planned picnic stop. But there was a problem: no picnic tables anywhere. We drove and drove. Why, on such an endless highway, were there were no facilities?

We finally gave up and pulled over to the side of the road.

At least there was a tree and some shade
Note the deep red soil

I got out of the car and spread lunch on the hood. I was too hungry to wait for Uwe, so I unwrapped my sandwich and yummy cake, and gazed out into the endless empty brush.

The Indian Ocean is somewhere on the other side of those mountains

Every fly in the endless empty brush left wherever they’d been snoozing. Within seconds my eyes and mouth, my hands and arms, and my lunch were engulfed with fat hungry insects. My sandwich was rendered way beyond salvaging; it had vanished under layers of crawling flies. I wrapped everything back into a bag to throw away later and contented myself with a piece of fruit (eaten in the car, with the windows all closed).

In case you’re eating your own lunch as you read this I won’t tell you what it is in The Thorn Birds that’s covered in flies. But man, that McCullough sure can write!

(All photogaphs can be enlarged by simply clicking on the image.)

The View from my Window

Hello! Welcome to my blog space! Allow me to introduce myself: I’m Jadi Campbell. I’m an American who grew up in the Northeast, went to college and lived as an adult on the West coast, and am now married and reside in Europe.

I’ve been in southern Germany for over 20 years… two decades that have gone by in the blink of an eye. As a boss I once had used to say, life is short and art is long. My husband and I live in a village with 1,200 years of recorded history, near Stuttgart. As I write this a construction site is progressing on our street. The builders are required to do an archaeological survey first, and so far they’ve discovered graves and a weaving hut from 500 A.D. Last week they dug up a skeleton and tool dating back to 4,000 – 5,000 B.C.! The layers of history and civilization and cultures here, literally in my back yard, are amazing.

I’ve visited over 60 countries, including a few that no longer exist (I’m talking to you, Czechoslovakia and West Germany.) Maybe it’s life overseas, perhaps it’s a desire to know what makes other people tick; something keeps me very curious about other people and places.

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to write. Finally, in my mid-50s, I’ve combined all the fun of travel, the harder work of living life in another language and culture, and half a century of living. I took all these elements and wrote my first book of fiction: Broken In: A Novel in Stories.

Allow me to introduce you to a few of my characters: Lou Bocci, who had a twin who died. Adam Kersch, overly charming and fighting off a depression. Lisa Mitchell, a brand new adult who learns about the world… in Bangkok. Judy Diver, gourmet chef and serial monogamist. Bartender Gabe Burgess, who spends 4 weeks every winter exploring a new part of the world. And JJ’s Bistro, the restaurant where these characters and others all cross paths.

I am often asked, “But is it true? Do you write about things that really happened?” The answer is no. And, of course, yes. I write about events both wonderful and terrible that could happen to all of us. All of my characters are people you might meet, and perhaps you already have. And you can remeet them now, in paperback and eBook available on Amazon. You’ll find the books under my name.

Welcome. We await your getting to know us and becoming friends.

– Jadi