Take Me Home, Country Roads

IMG_5775
Maryland flag.

IMG_4501
Flower Box Flag, Hudson River Park

Happy 4th of July, America.

I wish you good health, happiness, and a way to mend deep divisions. 

Growing up in Baltimore, a day cheering at an Orioles’ baseball game was always a blast. We ate popcorn, peanuts and Cracker Jacks, rooted for our home team, and always belted John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” during the seventh inning stretch. I found out something interesting about Denver’s patriotic song “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” 

Chris Kaltenbach, writing for The Baltimore Sun, wrote “Mountain mama! John Denver’s ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ was inspired by Maryland, not West Virginia. Hon, did you know that? Me either!

His article, published 4/17/19 is excerpted below.

Next time you hear John Denver warbling “Take Me Home, Country Roads”…keep in mind that it wasn’t anywhere in West Virginia that inspired the massive hit, but rather a road in Montgomery County.

Songwriter Bill Danoff, in a 1997 article he wrote for The Washington Post (in tribute to Denver, who’d just died), said he had begun writing the song while driving to a family reunion along Clopper Road, near Gaithersburg. He and his future wife, Taffy Nivert, completed the song in December 1970 with Denver’s help. “Back then,” Danoff wrote, Clopper Road “was still a country road.” (It isn’t anymore, apparently, thanks to development over the past 49 years.)

The three premiered the song the following night at Washington, D.C.’s The Cellar Door, where Denver was headlining (Danoff and Nivert, performing under the name Fat City, were his opening act). “When we first sang the song together,” Danoff wrote, “it seemed as though the audience would never stop applauding. Next show, same thing. We knew we had a hit.”

Wrote Denver, in “Take Me Home,” his 1994 autobiography, “In the wee hours of the morning, sometime between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, in their basement apartment in Washington, D.C., we wrote ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads.’ It became my first Number One record.”

No word on why Maryland lost out to West Virginia in the lyrics. Perhaps “Maryland” just doesn’t sound as pastoral as its western neighbor. More likely, the three syllables that combine for our state’s name just don’t fit the meter the songwriters had worked out.

“Take Me Home, Country Roads”

Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees, younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

Country roads, take me home to the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mamma, take me home, country roads

All my memories gather round her, miner’s lady, stranger to blue water
Dark and dusty, painted on the sky, misty taste of moonshine, teardrop in my eye

Country roads, take me home to the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mamma, take me home, country roads

I hear her voice in the morning hour, she calls me, the radio reminds me of my home far away
And driving down the road I get a feeling that I should have been home yesterday, yesterday

Country roads, take me home to the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mamma, take me home, country roads

Country roads, take me home to the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mamma, take me home, country roads

Take me home, down country roads
Take me home, down country roads

 

Bright Blooms and Poem for Peace

Morning walks are my meditation; sweet scents my solace.

A year ago, we were frozen in place. When the pandemic shut our world down, my family asked, “How long will this last?” “Surely, a few weeks.” “Surely, not past July 4th.” As the months dragged on, and everyday was the same as the last, several walks a day was our way to break the monotony. And guess what, hon? Senses heightened. Flowers were more vivid than ever. Garden scents filled the air. Songbirds were distinguishable. And the antics of our sweet furry angels, Lucy and Midnight, entertained us. I’m still walking, discovering wonders everyday. And everyday, those wonders bring me bits of peace.

Click here to learn more about Maya Angelou.

Bugging Out!

Little Miss Cicada.
Little Miss Cicada spreading her wings.

Little Miss Cicada hanging out.
Little Miss Cicada hanging out.

“Every time I see them, I scrunch my shoulders and feel weird inside.  They freak me out!  They’re gross!”

Best quote award goes to my daughter Hannah, who was a teenager in 2013, the last time Brood X cicadas created a stir (of wings) in the Garden State.

Yes, our dog Lucy thought they made tasty treats. Yes, that’s me holding an adult cicada. No, no one else in my family thought they were cool.

Repost: Cicada City Part 1

One of my favorite summer nighttime sounds is the collective hum of cicadas.  They start somewhere at the end of June and continue, if it’s warm enough, into October.  I make a mental note the night I don’t hear them anymore. Then, I know winter’s on its way.

This year, a different cicada has come out of its 17-year hibernation.  If you haven’t heard of the periodical Brood II cicadas, I’m afraid you’ve either been living under a rock or under the ground as a separate cicada species. The, ummm, buzz about the buzz started before the first cicada wriggled out of a 1/4 “diameter hole in the ground.  The bugaboo about these bugs reached an all-time high about the same time a rash of little holes covered my yard.  It looked like someone had aerated the ground.  Ohhh, I guess someone did!

Hon, guess what came next?  A condition I’m calling “Cicada Hysteria!”  In fact, plenty of people are still afflicted with “Cicada Hysteria” since the insects are still underfoot, climbing trees, flying around and altogether creating a modern day horror movie.  Take Teenage Daughter #1.  Here’s what she has to say about them, “Every time I see them, I scrunch my shoulders and feel weird inside.  They freak me out!  They’re gross!”

Unlike Teenage Daughter #1, Teenage Daughter #2 is indifferent, and Tween Daughter thinks they’re cool.  From afar.  She doesn’t mind looking at them from a safe distance, but she’s not about to let a six-legged cidada crawl on her arm.

Hon, guess who let a six-legged cicada crawl on her arm?  You got it.  I bonded with Little Miss Cicada! LMC hung out on in my hands for a half hour.  LMC wasn’t trapped, tied down or otherwise constrained.  She hung out of her own free will.  I think we were equally fascinated with each other.

She allowed me to touch her hard shell and peer into the black pupils in the middle of her red eyes.  The antennas under her eyes were short and black.  She picked up her leg and “waved” to me and Tween Daughter.  Really!  Her legs were sticky in an “I can cling to bark” kind-of-way.  I have no idea what LMC was thinking.  Do cicadas think?  If they do, maybe she was thinking, “Please scratch my shell.  It’s really itchy when it first comes out of its exoskeleton!”

I placed her on the side of a Tulip tree, and now I listen for her loud buzz when I water the flowers, walk Lucy and drive through town. I hope that as soon as the song of the Brood II cicadas dies down, the annual cicadas that sing in the night return.

Then I’ll sit outside at dusk, watching the trees turn into silhouettes against the indigo sky. The bats will flit about catching mosquitoes, the fireflies will wink to each other and the screech owls will whistle and hoot.  The perfect, warm temperature of summer nights will fill me up…with hope and happiness and satisfaction. 

Little Miss Cicada.
Bonding with Little Miss Cicada. (photos courtesy of Tween Daughter)

Independent Book Store Day

Independent Book Store Day, April 24, 2021, is billed as “One Day. Hundreds Of Bookstores. Fifty States. Join The Celebration!” My two favorite Indie bookstores are The Book House and Words. Both have great selections, calm, welcoming atmospheres, special events, and the personal touch and help that you can only get at small stores.

I hope to one day, very soon (fingers crossed, wish on a dandelion, Flying Wish Paper and more), enter one or both of these stores as a Kidlit author, not just a customer.

Hon, what’s your favorite Indie book store?

The Book House in Millburn, NJ

Words in Maplewood, NJ

Image c/o the bookstores’ websites.

“Sonnet” by Alice Dunbar-Nelson

Poems enter my mind in words and phrases, begging me to concentrate on how to make language sing. April is National Poetry Month. Hon, hope you enjoy the history behind it and a “Spring song.”

National Poetry Month

Launched by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996, National Poetry Month reminds the public that poets have an integral role to play in our culture and that poetry matters. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K–12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, families, and, of course, poets, marking poetry’s important place in our lives. In 2021, the Academy of American Poets looks forward to celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of this annual celebration!

“SONNET” BY ALICE DUNBAR-NELSON

I had no thought of violets of late,
The wild, shy kind that spring beneath your feet
In wistful April days, when lovers mate
And wander through the fields in raptures sweet.
The thought of violets meant florists’ shops,
And bows and pins, and perfumed papers fine;
And garish lights, and mincing little fops
And cabarets and songs, and deadening wine.
So far from sweet real things my thoughts had strayed,
I had forgot wide fields, and clear brown streams;
The perfect loveliness that God has made,—
Wild violets shy and Heaven-mounting dreams.
And now—unwittingly, you’ve made me dream
Of violets, and my soul’s forgotten gleam.

Show-n-Tell Ceramics, A New Bowl

This handmade bowl was my attempt at creating a larger piece featuring a carved design that encircles the vessel. Despite scoring, slipping and smoothing the seams, a small crack appeared after glazing. My teacher suggested re-glazing and re-firing. The crack remained though it doesn’t go through to the bottom.

The bowl and its crack are a metaphor for me.

I work hard to seal the seams of doubt, “re-glazing and re-firing,” but the crack remains. Maybe this bowl is a metaphor for all of us, flawed and not like we’d planned, but still interesting.

Hon, just like my manuscripts, some ceramics are practice pieces, some get thrown away, and some will be polished and glazed another time. But, I’m happy with these small vases and bowls. I especially like the carving on the vases and the throwing lines on one of the bowls.

Wishing me–and you–places to go in our minds, practice and work where creativity keeps us in the moment and allows anxiety and self-doubt to disappear into the background.

What is Storystorm?

STORYSTORM is the brain child of Tara Lazar, a children’s book author and mentor whose blog Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) is a source of information and showcase of personality. In Tara’s words:

The Storystorm challenge is to create 30 story ideas in 30 days. You don’t have to write a manuscript (but you can if the mood strikes). You don’t need potential best-seller ideas.

You might think of a clever title. Or a name for a character. Or just a silly thing like “purple polka-dot pony.” The object is to heighten your idea-generating senses. Ideas may build upon other ideas. Your list of potential stories will grow stronger as the days pass. Eventually, you will have a list of ideas to flesh out into concepts, premises and manuscripts in the coming year.

On this blog, daily posts by authors, illustrators, editors and other publishing professionals will help inspire you. By the end of the month, you’ll have a fat file of ideas to spark new stories.

Tara Lazar

This year, STORYSTORM inspired me to start a new journal in which I’m collecting ideas. Some may turn into stories and some may not, but one of the takeaways from this year’s authors and illustrators is to see where your creativity takes you. I’m up for the challenge!

I create with clay, yarn, fabric and, of course, ingredients. I imagine worlds with words.

Hon, where does creativity take you?