Meet the real characters from Saylor on The Seashore.
Saylor the Seagull
The idea for Saylor came from a scene I watched unfold at Carillon Beach. As I was walking with my family, we saw a small seagull get caught by a fisherman's line. The line was tangled around his foot. A crowd of beachgoers gathered to watch on the shore and a crowd of seagulls gathered in the sky above us. As the drama unfolded before my eyes, the story unfolded in my mind. Thankfully, the fisherman was able to free the little bird and both stories have a happy ending.
Piper the Sandpiper
The character Piper came from my many years of watching sandpipers on the beach. They're my favorite!
Big Blue Heron
In the story, Big Blue wears a fishing hook in his beak. The real Blue Heron that inspired the character was quite a "character" himself. He was stealing bait right out of the fishermen's buckets on the beach. All the while, the wildlife workers were trailing him, hoping to remove the hook from his beak.
Old Gray Pelican
There always seems to be a Pelican sitting on the post by the pier. I always imagine the Pelican is there to give advice to the other birds because he looks so old and wise.
[Based on a story told to my children by their Mee Maw. She insists that she was once frightened by a runaway lobster on the checkout counter at Publix. I always shake my head at her story because it just cannot possibly be true, can it...?]
At the grocery store, I sood in line.
I watched the lady in front of me, from behind.
She had a lobster in a sack.
I thought, eeeww...put him back!
She stood there tall and thin,
And smiled and said, “got a big pot to put ‘em in."
Oh! How his eyes opened wide!
He jumped and hopped all over the place.
The check out lady? You should have seen her face!
Me? I jumped back.
He was wild!
He might attack!
He climbed and ran and scurried.
Oh my! How he hurried!
He hopped onto the floor.
And scurried right out the door.
He ran and ran with all his might.
I watched him till he was outta site.
That lady in front of me; she was sad.
But me? Boy was I glad!
Almost the end of January seems like a strange time to be celebrating the New Year, but I confess I don't always feel excited about the New Year.
As the New Year approaches, I always feel like Charlie Brown as he was talking to Linus about preparing for Christmas, “I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I am supposed to feel.” That is how I feel about facing a new year.
As I packed up the Christmas ornaments this year, I finally realized why I feel this way. One thing I always hate to put away is the little plastic nativity my great grandmother, Momma Ruth, gave me when I was a little girl. It's a tiny thing I can hold in my hand, but that little plastic scene with the little plastic Jesus makes me smile. After all, the nativity, and the entire Christmas season is all about waiting, waiting for the birthday of Christ, waiting for Santa, waiting for guests.... it's all excitement and anticipation. I guess that explains the let down feeling when it’s time to put it all away.
I wanted to hold onto that feeling, hold onto the anticipation and wonder at what is to come. Now it is all over, all put away. Christmas is over and now the New Year looms ahead, full of uncertainty: my parents' declining health, my kids growing up, the world itself changing too fast. As I looked at my photo of that little plastic nativity, I realized I've been looking at it all wrong.
That little plastic Jesus was not made to leave the manger. That little scene isn’t made to change. Thankfully, the real Jesus grew up and saved the world. Thankfully, time didn’t stand still then and it doesn't stand still now.
As time moves on, there is nothing I can do to stop it. I can; however, hold onto that feeling of anticipation every day and see the New Year as a beginning rather than an end. I have faith in that grown up Jesus I believe in, and faith in the world that everything will work out right. I have much to be thankful for and excited about this year, so welcome 2017!
Growing up in my Strawberry Shortcake, Smurf-laced childhood, I never knew I was deprived of heroes. Princess-filled fairy tales ruled my imagination and made my little-girl heart swoon. They were mostly romantic stories of distressed damsels waiting to be rescued, but they didn't inspire me to do big things, to be brave. Then I grew up and had 3 boys and fell in love with superheroes.
Recently, as I sat between my boys watching Dr Strange (in 3D), it hit me: superheroes are cooler than princesses, way cooler. Many of them have overcome great odds, insurmountable disabilities, to exemplify courage and bravery. Dr strange is a brilliant doctor who suffers severe nerve damage in a car accident and learns to reclaim his life and purpose by controlling magic to defeat evil, becoming the Sorcerer Supreme.
Spider-Man was bitten by a radioactive spider and then uses his newfound powers to fight crime in New York. He didn't sit around waiting to be rescued; he knew that "with great power there must also come great responsibility."
The leader of the X-Men and founder of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, Charles Xavier, was accidentally paralyzed by his friend Erik (better known as Magneto). He does not let his disability hold him back. Professor X dedicated his life to helping others.
The Fantastic Four is a story about 4 young outsiders who are transported to an alternate universe where their bodies are changed, giving them super powers. Johnny Storm becomes the Human Torch, able to control fire. His sister Sue becomes the Invisible Woman. Reed Richards becomes Mr. Fantastic, able to stretch and twist his body. Ben Grimm gains super human strength as the Thing. The 4 team up to prevent Doctor Doom from destroying the Earth.
As a child, Daredevil (Matt Murdock), was blinded by chemicals. His disability led him to become a superhero. He uses echolocation to fight crime.
The princesses I loved growing up were sweet, pretty, helpless and naive. I was entertained, yet not inspired. These days, I still love a good fairy tale, although I prefer a stronger princess. In the end, I must admit I'd rather have a superhero.
“Be pretty (but it sounded like “purdy”),” she said that Sunday as she dragged me along by my seven-year-old hand. It was her way of saying for me to behave. We passed the cemetery beside the little white church. It seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. She was wearing her Sunday best, a light blue polyester pantsuit. It was one she had probably made herself, with those same bony hands that taught me to draw and tried her best to teach me to crochet. I had spent many afternoons in her tiny kitchen as she taught me arts and crafts, but this was the first time I had been to church with her.
Inside, the walls were bare and the floors dark wood, the wooden pews had no cushions. It was a lot different than the Methodist church my family usually attended, a city church with its green carpet and pillowed pews. The room was bare, just a small crowd of people who seemed so old to me. She kept introducing me as “her little great granddaughter.” They all knew “Mrs. Ruth.” She was “Momma Ruth” to me and all her other grandchildren and great grandchildren. She was all snow white hair and squishy hugs, the mother of a grandfather I never knew and all of my great “aints.”
There was no organ, no piano and no choir, yet the old hymns were comforting. “Bringing in the Sheaves” and “The Old Rugged Cross” were familiar; the Methodists sang them too. There was a certain sweet rhythm in the way all those white heads bobbed in time with the melodies. “A cappella” I learned later. Instruments were not part of the service at Camp Creek Primitive Baptist Church.
I don’t remember the preaching, but after the singing, some of the members began to pour water into basins on the floor. They placed a chair in front of each basin of water and began to line up. I was settled into a chair off to the side and told this was “grown up business.” I watched curiously as all the members of this little church, these old friends began to take turns washing each other’s feet.
Sunday best meant a little more than Mrs. Ruth putting on her best pantsuit.
A fun little story published in Flash Fiction Press.
I am a scaredy cat; I admit it. There, I have said it, the cat is out of the bag, pun intended. I am afraid of change and afraid of new things and afraid to put myself “out there,” but I have recently found wisdom on bravery in some unexpected sources.
First, out of the mouth of a babe. I love watching my 9 year old play soccer. He is fearless. His team can be losing by double digits at halftime and he still gives the game his 100% because he is full of confidence that they can comeback, somehow. Like Alice, he has believed “as many as 6 impossible things before breakfast.” I am inspired by this undaunted confidence.
I am often inspired by athletes. I came across an article in my husband’s Sports Illustrated recently that encouraged me. In 1964, before he was a star, Cassius Clay, better known as Mohammad Ali, wrote an article for Sports Illustrated called “Why I Roared.” He explained the difference in “them” and himself: “You’ve never heard of them. I’m not saying they are not good boxers. Most of them can fight almost as good as I can. I’m just saying you never heard of them. And the reason for that is because they cannot throw the jive. Cassius Clay is a boxer who can throw the jive better than anybody you will probably ever meet. I don’t think it’s bragging to say I’m something a little special.”
Wow! Talk about confidence! He was putting himself “out there” before that was the thing to do. I am going to remind myself of this the next time I feel nervous making a Twitter post.
Another thing that gets in the way of bravery is fear of failure. What if I don’t win? What if I don’t get the job? What if I don’t like the job? What if this move is the wrong decision? What if people don’t like my writing or my art? Cassius Clay had an answer for this too, “If things go wrong in the fight, I’ll just wait a while. Summertime comes, flowers start blooming, little birds start flying and you wake up, get up and get out. You change with the times.”
So, apply for the job, play the game, write the book. Go down your rabbit hole bravely.
[This true story was inspired by a scene I witnessed while eating out with my family on July 4th.]
Their heads almost touched, one snow white and one dark, as they leaned over the table from their seats. The dark woman was young, strong and capable, the white haired one frail with age. It seemed an unlikely friendship especially in the south. The white haired one was well-dressed and manicured, someone with social importance –– a debutante a lifetime ago. The dark lady was a hard worker. She took charge of things.
The strong lady ordered for the frail one and helped her eat. The frail one was once strong- willed, even stubborn. You could tell by the way she set her jaw, slightly tilted up. She did not like this needing help, this caretaker her children said she needed. She did not like having someone wipe her chin and hold her fork, someone spreading her napkin over her lap. She held her head down for moments at a time, gathering strength to accept more help. She lowered her head as the dark lady wiped crumbs from her chin and her lap.
Then the strong lady ordered a dessert for her companion, banana pudding in a mason jar. This, I noticed… is when she ordered her own food. She ate her lunch while her friend ate her dessert. The frail lady seemed to enjoy the dessert, even a half smile.
They ate in silence, celebrating the 4th of July in a beautiful and sad picture. I thought about these two ladies, both beautiful and both strong in different ways. There was strength in the way the dark and strong lady helped so kindly and patiently. There was strength in the way the white haired and frail lady accepted the help; this caretaker had become her friend. A seemingly unlikely friendship, but maybe they had more in common than we know.
This lovely group of ladies inspired me and reminded me that we are all "fearfully and wonderfully made." Psalm 139:14
Every week I saw them, swaying their hips, not quite in unison, in the humidity of the Georgia springtime. Every week, I watched them: a menagerie of shapes and sizes laughing as the music played. Every week, I longed to join them- those belly dancers.
They were gathered in an empty corner of a strip mall parking lot every Monday night. For those several weeks, I would hope to get "stuck" at the light as I drove past just so I could watch and wish. Wishing not only to join them, but to be so free and comfortable in my own body that I would sway, swish and sweat without reservation as these women did, these fearless warriors. For they were at war, so to speak- against the unrealistic myths that women, all of us, have about what the perfect body should look like. These women were not "perfect" by magazine standards, but they were comfortable in their own skin. They were comfortable enough to be out there, unashamed and that alone made them beautiful.
As the season wore on, they continued to gather and dance; some of them began to wear the glittering gold chains around their belly and some of them had begun to wear the sheer scarves of a professional belly dancer. I guessed they had gained confidence in their dance and in themselves.
One day as I passed they were gone. I wondered if the class had come to an end? I hoped instead (and still do) that these lovely women had moved indoors and were swaying and sweating somewhere new- hopefully in front of a glass window, unashamed.
Fireflies… those lovely winks of light, are as much a part of life here in the South as sweet tea and stories told on front porches. Around here everyone tells stories, about everyone and everything. Stories are born out of day to day living. Those are the “firefly” moments- being inspired by the ordinary…
Here are some Firefly moments that have happened to me:
As I walked along the beach, I watched a seagull become trapped in a fishing net. An event unfolded in front of me and a story unfolded inside of me. I wrote it down in my journal when I returned to my condo and the story of Saylor on the Seashore was born.
As I walked through the neighborhood, I met a funny cat with lots of personality and unusually long legs. I called him Kitty LongLegs and another story started brewing.
The cat in the tree became to me The Cat Who Could Fly.
Inspiration is everywhere. We don’t need books about how to be more creative. We don’t have to wait for the big “light bulb” idea. We just need to open our eyes, our minds and our hearts to the creativity in the ordinary.