Author Megan Denby and I share similar feelings about the impact our grandfathers had in our lives. In my upcoming book Crying Girl, grandpa plays a significant role in the early development of the main character, Nicole, before he dies. Megan's story about her grandad resonates strong feelings within me and I trust that you will also find it moving.
Stanley Lockhart could walk, unremarkably, into any room and instantly be surrounded by children. At eighty years, he was comfortable sitting on the floor to help a child assemble a puzzle. I never heard him say, ‘Shh’ or ‘Just a minute,’ for he knew that every moment was precious to a child and every child was precious in that moment.
Stanley Lockhart was my grandad. There was no one like him. His eyes and smile visit me often. I remember the day Grandad gave me a newspaper clipping – details of a writing contest. We sat at his kitchen table, playing cards, and talked about me being a writer one day.
After Grandad died, I found that clipping in a drawer and I remembered the faith he’d had in me. I entered a contest and wrote about Stanley Lockhart. The award I won lessened my fears and so I took a careful step in the direction of my dreams.
It’s a rhythmic filtering of air between his teeth. It seems loud on the still morning. Fog swirls, creeps between the trees on shore. I stare at his hunched back, the green work shirt, the brown fedora.
And he whistles.
Water laps the sides of our boat. I trail my fingers in the cool water; make patterns in the glass-like surface. He turns and passes my fishing rod. My snarled line is magically straight. A fresh worm wiggles on the hook. He peers at me with crinkled, brown eyes and grins, one of those full-face grins. Then he pulls a handkerchief from his pocket and blows his nose. I watch, fascinated, as the end of his nose wobbles back and forth. I press the release, watch as the worm sinks into the murky depths. A loon calls and Grandad peers across the lake.
I follow the line of his outstretched arm. I can just make out the loon. Bobbing behind are two babies. They seem so small to me. I feel a nibble and my rod bends. Anticipation shivers down my back and I tighten my fingers. I glance up. Grandad still watches the loons. They are farther away now, just specks.
The sky is glowing. I watch as the sun slips over the horizon, bleeds orange into the morning. The lake shimmers, sunlight fracturing into a million diamonds as it hits the water. Grandad peers back and I smile. He smiles back and starts to whistle as he feeds his line into the lake. My arms tremble as I hold the two-by-four above my head. Grandad reaches up and hammers a nail into the wood, then another.
I lower my arms and feel the ache. I notice Grandad’s thin back, the thin shoulders, and the frayed work shirt. He lifts his fedora and pushes thick, silver waves back with his forearm. I stare at the tattoo of the lady on his arm and wonder where he got it. I’m tired but Grandad reaches for more wood. He whistles and carefully steps to the next window of my new home. I find another nail in my apron and join him.
The sun seems on fire. The last streaks of daylight cling to the sky then gradually retreat, sinking below the horizon. I feel the heat of Grandad’s hand as he pats my shoulder then he lifts the wood into place. This time I hammer.
I hold his hand, feel the warmth. I stare at the tattoo, watch as it blurs before my eyes.
The room is quiet save the chuff of Grandad’s breath and the bleep of the machine that monitors his heart. I smooth my hand across his brow, pray for him to open those brown eyes. His fedora hangs alone on the back of a chair. He seems so small to me in the hospital bed.
He sighs and I lean in. “I’m here, Grandad. I’m right here.”
He sighs again. I slip my hand into his; feel the worn skin, the familiar calluses. I peer toward the window and watch, as the sun hovers on the horizon, a purple rim of light that slowly fades to nothing.
Grandad may have crossed to the other side of the horizon but his light shines bright in those of us he touched.
What feelings or memories does this story resonate with you?
Megan Denby is an award-winning novelist who grew up on a farm with two older sisters and a younger brother. Once she discovered the world of books, she was lost, often reading to the wee hours of the morning. Megan has been writing for over thirty years. Her debut novel, "A Thistle in the Mist" was described by one agent as having a "hypnotic, fairy-tale-like quality" and was inspired by the turbulent life of her feisty, Scottish great-grandmother. A Canadian girl, Megan is an avid dragon boater and draws inspiration from the tranquility of her secluded cottage in Northern Ontario. She lives in the enchanting, lakeside community of Port Perry with her wife and passel of children and is working on the disturbing sequel, "Lost to the Mist”.
Contact Megan at: www.megandenby.com and http://notyouraveragelassie.blogspot.ca/
My paternal grandmother died a week before her 100th birthday in 2010. She lived a full life and was like Frank Sinatra in that “she did it her way.” Her stories about growing up on a farm in Nebraska fascinate me especially her experience with Charles Lindbergh. “Way before he became famous,” my grandmother said, “Lindbergh flew people in his plane to make money and he gave your grandfather and I a ride while we were dating.”
I remember being in awe when I heard the story for the first time. I recall thinking that my grandmother was the best supplement to my History and English classes that anyone could have imagined. This is one reason why I became interested in Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s writing. In other instances and in regards to other authors my curiosity about them lies in the books themselves. There are some books that open the door to a new world, that remain with you for the rest of your life, and that stand as milestones on your journey to and through adulthood.
Why some books are memorable and eye opening and others are merely good reads depends on the reader; consequently it varies widely by individual. The variability also depends on timing and availability, as in the Buddhist proverb, "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear." My reaction to a book depends on where I am emotionally when I read it.
The following author list is based upon what was of interest to me in a particular time in my life. I’ve included the authors, the book or writing that impacted me the most, relevant screen or stage adaptations, and recent accolades. What are some authors or books that have changed you or you think changed the world?
Yolande Cornelia "Nikki" Giovanni Jr. is an American writer, commentator, activist, and educator. She is currently a distinguished professor of English at Virginia Tech. Rosa, a 2006 Caldecott Honor Book and the winner of the 2006 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award is a picture book tribute to Rosa Parks and a celebration of her courageous action and the events that followed. I remember buying this book at the Multi-Cultural Children’s Book Fair at the Kennedy Center around the time that I happily waited seven hours to pay my respects to Rosa Parks at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda where she became the first woman, and only second African-American, to lie in repose after she died in 2005. Nikki Giovanni signed my four copies of the book of which I treasure.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh (June 22, 1906 – February 7, 2001) was an American author, aviator, and the spouse of fellow aviator Charles Lindbergh. She was an acclaimed author whose books and articles spanned the genres of poetry to non-fiction, touching upon topics as diverse as youth and age; love and marriage; peace, solitude and contentment, as well as the role of women in the 20th century. Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea stands as a seminal work in feminist literature.
Toni Morrison is an American novelist, editor, and professor. Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed characters. Among her best-known novels are The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon and Beloved. Love (2003) is her eighth novel and is one of my favorites next to Song of Solomon. Morrison was also commissioned to write the libretto for an opera, Margaret Garner, first performed in 2005. She won the Nobel Prize in 1993 and the Pulitzer in 1988 for Beloved. On May 29, 2012, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Gloria Naylor won the National Book Award for fiction in 1983 for The Women of Brewster Place. In addition to her novels, Naylor has written essays and screenplays, as well as the stage adaptation of Bailey’s Caf’. The Women of Brewster Place was made into a popular television miniseries starring and produced by Oprah Winfrey, who is an ardent fan of the novel and its writer. Naylor has also founded One Way Productions, an independent film company, and is involved in a literacy program in the Bronx.
Sonia Sanchez—poet, activist, and scholar—was the Laura Carnell Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Temple University. She is the recipient of both the Robert Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime service to American poetry and the Langston Hughes Poetry Award. One of the most important writers of the Black Arts Movement, Sanchez is the author of sixteen books. An extraordinary retrospective covering over thirty years of work, Shake Loose My Skin is a stunning testament to the literary, sensual, and political powers of the award-winning Sonia Sanchez.
Alice Walker was born on February 9, 1944, in Eatonton, Georgia. She worked as a social worker, teacher and lecturer, and took part in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. Walker won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her 1982 novel, The Color Purple, and is also an acclaimed poet and essayist.
Today is Nowruz (Know-Rooz), meaning “New Day” and is the name of the Persian New Year. In 2010, the UN’s General Assembly recognized the International Day of Nowruz describing it as a spring festival of Persian origin which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years. The moment the sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is the specific time when Persian families gather together to observe New Year rituals. For me, I always feel a true sense of renewal during and after Nowroz leading up to my birthday in mid April.
2013 Nowruz Celebration at the Freer Gallery of Art/ Arthur M. Sackler Gallery/ International Gallery and S. Dillon Ripley Center
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This year my family enjoyed doing something a little different. The daylong festivities featured entertaining programs for all ages. Our favorites included performances by the Nomad Dancers and the “Fire” jumping which symbolized the celebration of the seasons changing and rebirth.
Persian New Year Fire Jumping, Parade, and Celebration in NYC 2011
Nowruz Family Traditions
Many Persians begin the New Year with a thorough spring-cleaning of their entire home a few days before the actual New Year so that they begin the New Year with a clean start. At the strike of the clock indicating the New Year, families are typically adorned with new dresses and suits gathering around the Nowruz table and Haft Sin. Prayers are offered for health, happiness and prosperity. Next, the family members hug and kiss each other as part of the New Year greetings. The delicacies prepared for the occasion are served and consumed. The oldest member of the family then takes the lead and presents the Eidi (New Year’s gift) to the younger members present.
Traditional Nowruz Food
Lucky for me, my mother prepares the intricate New Year dishes with some help from Costco, which sells smoked whiting that is served with Sabzi Polo, rice with green herbs along with another New Year staple, Kookoo sabzi that has nothing to do with the movie The One That Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest! This tantalizing dish is a light and fluffy omelet made from parsley, dill, coriander, spinach, spring onions, chives, walnuts, red currants and of course eggs. Personally, I like my New Year's plate paired with tadeek; my two year old refers to it as the “crunchies” and it is rice purposefully burnt to a golden crisp. Sometimes my mother will add thin slices of potato to the rice making it extra crispy.
Haft Sin (Haf Seen)
The number seven has been regarded magical and significant for the Zoroastrians. The number seven symbolizes the seven elements of life, namely, fire, earth, water, air, plants, animals and humans. The traditional table setting of Jamshed Navroz includes seven specific items beginning with the letter ‘S’, known as Haft Sin, that signify life, health, wealth, abundance, love, patience and purity. These items are also known to have astrological correlations to planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, and Sun and Moon.
Haft Sin Items and Symbolism
Mirror- cleanness and honesty
Rose Water- believed to have magical cleansing powers
Wheat or Barley Sprouts- plants
Goldfish- turn of New Year and it’s beginning- the sign of
Pisces which is the sun leaving)
Painted Eggs- Fertility
Samanu- a sweet pudding made from wheat germ- symbolizing affluence
Senied- the dried fruit of the Oleaster Tree- love
Sumac- the color of the sunrise
Vinegar- age and patience
Traditional Persian pastries
Dried nuts, berries, and raisins
The national colors- for a patriotic touch
A holy book (e.g. Qur’an, Torah, Bible) and/or a poetry book
A short video showing the Haft Sin Table
We all need each other in this world. Sure, we have our family members and close circle of friends around us- but what about outside the circle? Extending ourselves into the realms of reaching out of our comfort zones and making new family members out in society makes our world a better place to be. The saying “be the change that you want in the world,” should be a staple monument of our morals and values. We are strong and with perseverance, love, and compassion we as women will continue to spread the valuable lesson of unity and family among the nations of the world. Sisterhood is a bond that lasts beyond the stretch of time.
Love goes beyond the boundary of family that is within a bloodline. It flows through the earth and within our hearts. In my life, I've often witnessed women flocking to one another for support, to share accomplishments, to share disappointments, and to share a laugh every now and then. Even if married, women still cannot wait to tell fellow sisters their good and bad news; often busting at the seams to share the wondrous milestones that they have within their immediate families and in their daily lives, women come together because the sister connection is so vital.
Moreover, women have an incredible innate ability to unify. In fighting for the rights of themselves, loved ones, and anyone who would benefit from their tireless efforts, women have compassion to love each other. Just think of how awesome it is that the first women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, NY in 1848 and from there the course of history changed for all women around the world forever.
Sisterhood is powerful!
Many changes are happening in our world right now. Some people view these changes as positive and some despise them as they happen. Nonetheless, it is important that women understand, respect, utilize, and embrace the strong bond between sisters. I know sometimes the world may seem to be a cold and inhuman place to reside, but we are the makers of our future here on earth- Sisterhood is needed.
Melibeha Timberlake a.k.a Coach Cassie, is the founder of The Heart Hub, a company dedicated to helping women and teens discover and execute their full potential in life. Coach Cassie's loving and supportive coaching method has guided many from despair to the road to greatness. She has survived extreme situations and is victorious in her own life and lives to help people do the same.
To learn more about Coach Cassie and The Heart Hub please visit: www.facebook.com/thehearthubdotcom and www.thehearthub.com.
In 1911, a year after my paternal grandmother was born, International Women’s Day was only celebrated on the date of March 8. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter celebrated Women’s History Week with a formal proclamation. By 1981, Women’s History Week was a joint Congressional resolution. Six years later, the National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned Congress to recognize the insufficiency of one week. Congress agreed and expanded the celebration of women in history to an entire month.
So here we are in 2013, a world where women are celebrated for a month instead of one day and a world in which President Obama recently signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help women fight back against pay discrimination. I like what Martin Luther King, Jr. said- “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated Individuals.”
This message is a nice segue into the following writers who I think have made their mark on the world changing it forever. The following author list is based upon what was of interest to me in a particular times in my life. I’ve included the authors, the book or writing that impacted me the most, relevant screen or stage adaptations, and recent accolades. What are some authors or books that have changed you or you think changed the world?
Isabel Allende is a Chilean writer whose works sometimes contain aspects of the "magic realist" tradition. She is famous for novels such as The House of the Spirits and City of the Beasts, which have been commercially successful. Portrait in Sepia was published in 2002 and was one of the best Christmas presents I’ve received in recent years.
Maya Angelou is an American author and poet. She has published six autobiographies, five books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than fifty years. Her famous poem I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is my favorite.
Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American author who is named one of the 20 Best of American Novelists by Granta, 1996 and has the following accolades: Pushcart Prize for short fiction; American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation, for The Farming of Bones ; fiction awards from periodicals, including Caribbean Writer, Seventeen, and Essence ; Lannan Foundation Fellowship, 2004; Story Prize for outstanding collection of short fiction, for The Dew Breaker, 2005. The Farming of Bones is a work of historical fiction and the first book I ever read by Danticat- it changed me forever.
Amelia Mary Earhart was the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences and joined the faculty of the Purdue University aviation department in 1935 as a visiting faculty member to counsel women on careers and help inspire others with her love for aviation. She was also a member of the National Woman's Party, and an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment.
During an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937 in a Purdue-funded Lockheed Model 10 Electra, Earhart disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island.
In 2002, Sally Putnam Chapman the granddaughter of Earhart's husband, George Putnam, donated 492 items – including rarely seen personal and private papers, such as poems, a flight log and a prenuptial agreement – to Purdue Libraries' Earhart collection.
On the morning of their wedding on February 7th, 1931, Amelia Earhart wrote the following letter and saw that it was hand delivered to her publicist and fiancé, George Putnam — a determined man who had recently received a "yes" following his sixth marriage proposal to the world-famous aviator. Giving that answer had clearly been incredibly difficult for Earhart, and as a result she chose at the last minute to formally clarify a few points on paper and essentially announce the beginning of a yearlong trial marriage. Of course Putman agreed. This letter fascinates me and reminds me that Earhart was truly a woman before her time.
Three Days Before the First Ever
Digital Book Signing Event…
Nobel Laureate and novelist, Toni Morrison (who just turned 82 on February 18)
and Bay Area novelist, poet, and MacArthur “Genius Award” recipient Ishmael Reed conversed live from the legendary Harlem Arts Salon on February 24, 2013.
On the same day, I visited the Toni Morrison Elementary School and the Toni Morrison Reading room in the Lorrain Public Library where I met some of the nicest people.
Then on February 27 at 3 p.m, Ms. Morrison participated in a first ever digital book signing of her latest novel, “Home,” using a Wacom tablet from New York’s Google offices. Additionally, she participated in a live Google+ Hangout celebrating the culmination of Black History Month. I had the honor to be 1 out of 5 people in the country selected to participate in an intimate conversation with Ms. Morrison where at the end of the event she graced all five of us with a signed digital copy of “Home.” A heartfelt thanks to Ms. Morrison and Google+ for a memorable experience!