“The house was very quiet, and the fog—we are in November now—pressed against the windows like an excluded ghost.” ― E.M. Forster, Howards End

“November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.”― Emily Dickinson

Here it is, the end of November, pressing away and I have the privilege to do the last post for November of 2023. November derives from the Latin root novem – meaning “nine” because in the Roman calendar, there were only ten months and November was the ninth, which marks the point in the year when the cold sets in.

I think of the many trips back to my Illinois roots, often times in November. We could enjoy a surprisingly brisk sunny day or wake up to a skiff of snow. Looking outside my parents’ kitchen window to the north is what I saw over three days after I arrived in the sunshine. The first snow silently cluttered atop roofs and yards, fields, and playgrounds.   

View out the window…note deer behind the farthest tree.

I am sitting in my parents’ tiny kitchen looking out the window and having a cup of my dad’s weak coffee. (I soon learned to make myself a pot before he got up, pouring the strong coffee into a carafe I found deep in their closet.) Across the yard, lay wide empty fields, now harvested, and beyond that, a sturdy long borderline of trees that marked the woods. The fog this morning was dense as usual, slowly allowing the eye to see the barn outline become larger in the near distance, the end of the yard and the old tractor shed, now part-time car garage. All the pecan tree limbs were bare, black, and slick-looking from the fog. As I sat having coffee, my mom was in the background in her housecoat and reading the newspaper. The salt block finally becomes visible. Dad keeps it at the edge of the field by the shed for deer. Deer in these parts are as thick as ticks in Pike County. Thick.

Mom muttered something about what happened in a nearby town, and some recipe in the paper that looked ‘just’ awful. I watch the Dark-eyed Junco and Black-capped Chickadees on the feeder when suddenly, back in the distance, heads begin to emerge. It starts as a fuzzy dark rectangle, then takes a shape, a nose, tall alert ears, the soft breast and legs of a deer. Another, and another—like ghosts emerging from a mist, a make-believe place hidden among the thick fog. By now their hair is thicker, a bit longer, and darker as well as their undercoat to protect them from the cold. They slowly emerge through the dense gray haze, their bodies form into shapes, into needs and they bow their heads and lick the salt. My mind sort of went loamy as if I were the one to fade away into a rising mist—beautiful, gentle deer.  

I have walked and run through those same trees, over the creeks, for miles and miles as a kid through all seasons. Seen a deer startled, leaping up and bounding over a fence like a whiff of smoke, then as suddenly, disappear—into their own wild Brigadoon.

I hope your November nourished you with life-long memories.

Weekend Kitchen Counter Fixins

Mexican Green Chili, Ham and Pinto Beans

Prompt for 11.16.23

The road to authentic art is through the self. More specifically, it lies through the heart, not the head. Your loves, your hates, your scars, glories, fears, losses, triumphs–your heart is the heart of the matter. Heart is where the art is. ~ Julia Cameron in the Vein of Gold

What is changing in your life right now? What are you bidding farewell to? What are you welcoming into your life? What is constant?

Let’s Get Stuck

“First coffee, then a bowel movement, then the muse joins me.” ~ Gore Vidal

As a writer, I have read, and heard in person, many, many kickstarts to get the flow going, (no pun intended). Oh, the rigmarole to start the writing process, i.e., time of day, yoga, a walk, strong drink, (your choice), reflections, talk to the parrot or the parrot talk to you, musings of such, to get the words down. I have mentioned before, I do not entirely give initiation or credit to the word ‘muse’. I attack my process, mindfully, in a different way.

Writing gives a person time to discover connections, and time to ponder which great or small discoveries can be had, then taken deeper or lighter. As a writer, we play with words and ideas, taking them apart and putting them back together, and get a surprise along the way.

Photo from AZ Daily Star

In re-reading an article from the Arizona Daily Star, February 14, 1994, Dale Dauten tackles issues of musing and writing in the corporate world. (FYI – I do not clip out hundreds of articles or tidbits from newspapers, or print off the internet, but when I read something regarding writing, at times, I give in.) I found this piece in one of my journals recently. Dauten writes, “I once told a business broker that I would go home and muse on his proposition. He gave me a look of one-quarter pity and three-quarters disgust – that look people give a dog who just got sick on the carpet…” Dauten goes on to account that his friend is wrong, of course. Inventors are musers. He had recently read a story of the Swiss inventor George de Maestral. Coming home from a walk in the woods one evening in the 1940’s, he found cockleburs on his woolen trousers. How did these little cockleburs manage to get such a hold on his pants?

So he put a burr under the microscope and found that it was covered with tiny hooked barbs. The hooks caught the loops of thread in his wool pants. George then was able to recreate with fabric the cocklebur’s system of tiny hooks and loops and using the first syllables of two French words – “velour” for velvet, and “crochet” for hook – he gave his new product the brand name “Velcro”.

Many years later in one of my classes, the instructor asked each of us to pick out ‘velcro words’ in others’ stories, write them down, and then after each story is read, say aloud keywords that ‘clung’ to us, words that ‘poked’. We were to think more openly, more creatively in our descriptions of words such as these ‘ velcros’ in our own stories, giving the reader more to cling to, words that would rattle around in their head maybe for the next several hours, or days. What an invention!

For instance, here are a few from a private workshop in May 2013 – ‘bags of bleakness; sea of yellow; skin the color of oatmeal; ‘I felt like the inside of a tin can; swampy crater; navigational nightmare; anxious tore at the soft parts of my body’…and so on, all loaded with Velcro.  

Sometimes I sit on my porch late in the afternoon after I think my work is done for the day, or at the dining table when too hot or too chilly to be outdoors, looking at my yard of many colors, and opening the door for my thoughts to walk about. Words, ideas, and even nothing can spring up in the oddest forms. Like recently, the word panther – she rises like liquid flint. I jot it down. I might be able to use that someday, or just be satisfied with the feel I got from it floating through my head. But it stuck, like a cocklebur.

In this mental walk-about, Abigail Thomas in a recent blog post echos similarity: “I am interested in why this, why now? what’s the root of this new thing I can’t get out of my head. So I set to finding out. Then if I’m lucky, and don’t impose my will on it, or aim for perfection, I might find what I’m looking for without knowing I was looking for it, which is sort of the whole point, don’t you think?”

Yes, I do Abigail, I do.

A reminder of the upcoming event: Diana and I will be joining a group of published authors at the Annual Book Fair hosted by Society of Southwestern Authors on November 25, 2023, in Green Valley, Arizona. The location is 2150 S Camino del Sol, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon.

If you are local, please join the fun. The weather and atmosphere should be captivating.

Rhythms of Autumn

Seems like we are taking walks outdoors a lot now that autumn has arrived. How utterly lovely! I see fall floating through others’ blogs; in afternoon conversations with friends on the porch with a pinot gris with prosciutto pear cup appetizers, or Maple Nut Crunch coffee and biscuit mid-morning. Such a relief after being in the house for months on end due to the heat.

Jackie spoke of her dog walks in last week’s blog post of the crunch or crackle of leaves. She asks how one can describe a sound, or drum up a new word or a way with words to form a fresh description, an emotion, a jiggle of a feeling. She continued her walk with observations, private thinking, and wondering. In her walk, what she did was take the reader along. She did her job by simply stating her notions of observation. She ended by realizing she may not have the words she wanted, but “it was just plain fun.” Indeed, I felt refreshed as if I had felt the same ray of sun and crunched as many leaves as she under my tennis shoes.

When my niece became pregnant for the first time, she wrote letters and notes to her unborn. In long emails to me she shared her new feelings, hard to define, but on she went, beautiful, touching thoughts. I saved all, printed out, poems and notes she sent. When “Livvy” was born, my niece continued with her discoveries. She wrote and wrote and noted from anywhere she was physically or emotionally at the time. She found words through the five senses she had not experienced before.

With Tarah’s permission, below is a poem from one of her walks in November of 2004 when baby was a few months old. She writes from an unfamiliar place she had not undergone until the little one, her presence, perhaps, helped make note of it.  

Tarah & ‘Livvy’, my house in Tucson, 2006

November Afternoon

The sky is painted darkest grey, heavy with ominous clouds.

Bare branches whisper of bitter-cold wind and autumn sunshine long faded into the cold iron winter.

A few birds linger, one fluffing his feathers haughtily, puzzled by the absence of foliage, he once called home, knowing warm air and golden rays lurk just over the southern skyline.

The quiet is overwhelming. Waiting for the first flake to dance to earth in slow, swirling splendor, I watch.

I bundle baby in a warm fleece hat and wool sweater, confining tiny, wrinkled hands in soft mittens, stuffing plump feet into pink boots, zipping, buttoning, strapping.

Tarah & ‘Livvy’, my house in Tucson, Feb, 2019, sophomore in High School.

We plunge into the dark November afternoon. Cold air takes our breath away, unleashing deep, joyful laughter, like miniature bells of glee molded from the silver of angel’s wings.

She laughs to see the bird, puffed up so proud. He looks at her too, disdainfully.

She laughs again. This time, her eyes dance. Silly bird. Silly, silly bird.

She turns her bright blue eyes to me in wonder, meeting my desperate gaze, recovering my being, rejoicing in my love.

I am warm all over.

~ Tarah T, Nov, 2004

Oct, 2023, Sophomore in college, close to her home in Illinois.

The brilliance of fall softens the edges to prepare for the harsher, colder, and shorter days of sunlight in the months ahead. In Tucson, again, we only get brushstrokes of winter. Having lived twenty-three years in the Midwest left a lifelong imprint of each season and its changes. I feel as close to these seasons as if I never left. I will take walks with my surrounding autumn, enjoy the companionship with others in their walks via their writing, and bend my ear to the crunch and the sites of the last few birds that bravely linger. It is a quick season to step outside to breath deeply and walk with those we love.

Writing Prompt for 10.19.23

In an annular eclipse, the moon is at its furthest point from the Earth in its orbit, and thus does not block all of the sun in our sky. That’s why it’s called a “ring of fire” eclipse—you can see the edges of the sun framing the moon (with proper solar protection, of course). This recently occurred on October 14, 2023.

In Tucson, though, only about 75% of the sun was covered by the moon — not enough to see the “ring of fire”. I was outdoors watering and kept cleaning my glasses. My two cats were behaving oddly, and I felt like my eyesight was off, perhaps like a moth stuck in a smoke-colored bell jar until I realized it was the eclipse. I had lunch with girlfriends later that day and listened to many reactions from the eclipse.

What were you doing at the time of this eclipse, where were you, were you able to capture the “ring of fire”? Describe what you saw, felt, or any reaction to or experience of a solar eclipse.

A Pigment of My Imagination

How to paint pictures with words? How to bring a concrete object to life? One, the use of sensory details (sight, touch, sound, taste, and smell), if noticed, can engage not only the mind of the reader but the emotions as well. Two, using sensory detail, we begin to paint an idea, using imagery.

In Rebecca McClanahan’s book Word Painting, Chapters 3 & 4, she discusses the power of prose using description and the organization of details as being as important as the details themselves. She expertly describes with examples the five senses and the strength they give to writing. For those of you who are writers, you have an idea there is actual work involved. I can truthfully say I will never be able to write with my ‘eyes closed’ so to speak. The process and command of the page is never completed.  

The following example from one of our writer’s group prompts used sensory details to help bring a concrete object to life, and to show personal possession of the thing itself revealing an attachment by the use of memory. (In my case, it was the barn that withstood three generations of my family).   

The prompt was to be titled, Last Chance. We had to figure out a short story, pick an object that was familiar to us (mine was the barn), and bring it to life using sensory details and descriptive imagery. Once again, we could go with this prompt however we wanted if it took off on its own.

Last Chance

I wanted my barn to be the color of cherry cola. A dark, brownish rich red, the same shade that filled the tall clear glass at the café when I was nine. My grandparents took me every Friday afternoon for lunch during the summer. At the rear of the dining area, farmers scooted chairs around a big table where they told of neighbors’ woes, tales, and gossip. We always sat at the same smaller round table in the center. A plate of hot sizzling French Fries would be placed smack dab in the middle of the table where we all could reach and loads of ketchup on the side like a healing bundle of red clover. I loved the taste of fries with cherry coke.

I moved the ladder further over to begin painting the other side of the barn. The top all the way around had been finished, the hard part. These boards were weathered, and smooth, peepholes here and there. Not one nail held these boards together, but hand-made wooden dowels did. As I painted, I noted how the barn began to breathe, to move under the big wide paint brush. It relaxed under the constant massage of the brush stroke, limbered up and its spirits seemed to rise. Starlings flew in and out of the open windows, intermittently resting on the edges to chatter about the facelift.

Now and again a car or truck horn honked from the gravel road. I never turned but held my brush hand high in the air, paint dripping past my wrist in acknowledgment. The barn was getting attention and creating a fuss in the quiet countryside.

I climbed down the ladder to inspect the last bit to paint. Two large partitions were attached to a metal runner for doors in the center front. What color? Green, brown, a French Blue? A horn suddenly tooted and realized I had heard that particular ‘beep’ several times over the last two months. I turned to see who it was. It was Wade in his ’56 Ford pickup. He turned into the long lane and headed my way. I never noticed the color of his truck before. My, it was pretty. Sort of a French Blue, like the color of mist pushed from the ocean to gather around a little village on an early Sunday morning. As he turned off the key, the truck took two short steps forward, almost like a fox trot.

The barn on the farm reflecting in the pond.

He walked over to look at the barren sun-washed barn door. “Well,” he says, his hands on his stern hips, “I see this is the last of it.”

“Yes, it is, sort of like a last chance you might pitch in to help.” He turned a shade of…um, that would be it…the color Embarrassed, not the French Blue I was hoping for.   (end)

I thought I would end up writing more about the barn and its past meaning, but my short story took a turn when the color of Wade’s truck entered the scene. After our time was up we read our pieces over a slice of warm apple pie and whipped cream. Once home, I continued with several more pages of Wade. One never knows where a story may go.

Autumn Clock

Fall reading – Thoreau’s Walden & Kincaid’s My Favorite Plant

My hand shades my eyes straining toward autumn. Six days have passed under 100 and safely say no more until 2024. This week begins our overnight lows between 56 to 63, then decrease. So many reasons to celebrate. In my post of October 27, 2022, I share my feelings toward autumn to add why I long to be able to enjoy this crispy season. I put summer away in boxes, string autumn through the house, and porch, and begin to open doors. Monday and Tuesday night we slept with windows open and the AC off. 

Following are observations of the season change from three years ago. I look forward to what falls from the trees this season onto my writing pages.  

Each autumn, the clock turns backward. I am in Illinois to sit among

memories of rituals of fall festivals, wiener roasts, harvesting of corn,

chilly night hayrides, gnarly vines of squash and pumpkin, fuzzy black

and brown willy worms creeping across roads, the tipping of outhouses

or ringing doorbells late at night and hiding in nearby bushes.

A season for pranks and fun.

In Tucson, years later, I stand in my yard in mid-September year after year

to watch the sky, the color of light, and most particularly, the clouds. The   

morning I notice a club of clouds shaping low at the base of the Catalina’s

and along the Rincon Mountains, I see autumn pushing over the shoulder

of summer. Soon, the temperatures, achingly at a snail’s pace, begin to

drop and within weeks the Arizona Ash and Mulberry trees change

clothing and closet the green and bring on the gold, red, and orange. 

Strings of thin cobwebs crisscross in the air, and the slant of shadows shift

to crouch lower. Mornings of mellow light.

Inside, a crock pot, pumpkin, butternut squash, stews, bread, and apple streusel

recipes clutter the kitchen counter in preparation for a few weeks of amber and spice. 

The fire pit is moved from behind the garden shed and stuffed with the right

amount of wood for the first evening fire. Skinny metal sticks made for marshmallows

line in a row and checkered woven throws lay over the chairs. The cats curl, I stretch

my toes toward warm fuzzy socks and smell Harvest Moon. It is our season, our time,

our patch of autumn.

Weekend Kitchen Counter Fixins

Apple Caramel Pecan Cheesecake

How do you embrace this colorful season? Happy Autumn wherever you live.

Thursday Writing Prompt 9.21.23

This prompt ties in a bit with yesterday’s blog post regarding painting and writing, how they coincide in artistic conduct.

Paint Chips are a favorite of mine to begin a write, a warmup, something that can lead to a bigger piece. Names of paints are fabulous. I can spend a long time in a hardware store in the paint section. These names can lead to a story or poem, or just a title for either. Over the years, this exercise was used numerous times with our writing group.

I have randomly pulled four chips from my stash. If you can work all four into your poem or story, great, or one may catch your eye and may be the only name you need. Perhaps something recently happened in your world that you can tie the name(s) to your experience or memory that might represent an emotion, or action.

Cowgirl Blue, Summer Harvest, Sky Glass, Candy Floss,

An example from a writers group evening follows:

Sand Dollar                Perfume Haze           Breakfast Biscuit                   Mist Spirit

Cliffs, stones and dunes reflect miles of

   weathered and worn shores.

Mists of spirits rise tall over a shape of a sand dollar

  and perfumes of haze tuck tight against cottages.

Breakfast biscuits warm, the whistle of wind taps gently,

  a field mouse skitters into a hole.

Let’s see what you can do!

Brushing with Word Paints

What fun! I had not been to this art class since February of 2020, and our March class had to be canceled. Guess why? No one has to say why because much of everything didn’t happen in 2020.

In May 2016 when I discovered the media of Alcohol Inks, I was severely intrigued. Never heard of it. I did a bit of research on the artist, Sharen AK Harris, and found out loads. http://sharenakharris.com/   

During the Covid Conjuncture, I began painting and making bookmarks for the many book lovers I know and sold several. I have a huge cache of antique buttons and used some of those on the ribbons. Painting on a very small scale (sort of like writing flash fiction) induced the comfortability of trying various techniques and color combinations without covering a lot of ground.

On this past Monday morning, I woke in a very frumpy mood–no reason, I simply felt out of sorts. Perfect timing because a thoughtful friend, Jane, who we shared classes together prior to covid had made arrangements to go to Sharen’s in the afternoon now that she had opened up her studio again to smaller groups. Maybe this is what I needed. Jane reminded me to bring snacks. Oh yeah, I forgot about that. I whipped up some treats because this is also part of the fun. 

Later that Monday in the early afternoon, four of us met at Sharen’s quaint small studio set up in her home west of Tucson, very close, if not bumped up to, the Tucson Mountains. Natural desert beauty surrounds her home for miles and miles. No tall buildings, only jagged mountains, cacti and a few city lights to the northwest. This landscape showcases sunrise and sunsets, and an array of wildlife which can be found threaded throughout some of her artwork. Even though I have painted in watercolor since very young, learned oils and acrylics, and pastels in my thirties, this freestyle media is incredible.

Alcohol ink is typically made of a mixture of alcohol, pigment, and a binder to help the ink adhere to surfaces. It’s a clear colorless liquid and the pigment provides the color and the binder helps the ink stick to surfaces such as glass, tile, metal, and certain types of paper such as YUPO.

The ink colors move on their own, add more drops of the ink to allow them to drip, or you can blow through a straw to assist further movement to create a wispier and feathery affect. The weight, or lack of it, can easily be manipulated with a brush dipped in the alcohol inks to pat, tap, dot, swirl, and sometimes areas will form sort of a ‘crust’ edge. Powerful.

One of Sharen’s classes pre-covid

Sharen continues to reiterate, “There is no wrong way, if you don’t like it, smear over it and start again. Never throw anything away.” She says to ‘squint’ at your painting because this will help you see a greater definition of values and shapes. Got it, I learned to squint. At one class she grabbed a small white tile, you know the kind, used in bathrooms, backsplashes, and the like, and said, “I am going to show you how to paint a sunflower in sixty seconds.”  Amazing. I can do that…its so effortless. The next day (by now I had bought, ordered, and set up my little studio), I laid out a small white tile, paints, and forty minutes later I was still fussing. So much for my one-minute sunflower. Maybe I didn’t squint.

Back to Monday afternoon, the four of us who attended this class decided we wanted to try pumpkins and leaves since autumn is knocking. Sharen gave us each three different sizes of photo paper (we use the back side; ink will not adhere to the slick side) and all the tools necessary. “Pick one and we’ll do a warm-up.” She showed us one of her paintings and we began. Sharen picks up a blank piece and reminds us how to engage shadows, the look of petals bursting out of the center of the sunflower by pressing lightly and then pulling back the brush, the light and dark on a pumpkin, (lifting off color) and values to give dimension. Two hours later we were all about satisfied with our ‘warm-up’. Warm-up! What will a real painting take us…two non-stop days? We had a good laugh while eating our snacks. But we all had a finished piece and were pleased. 

Alcohol Ink by Sally

In paints, you live with color, make forms, movements, and swirls, to capture images from A to Z. This line of thought segues me into the realm of writing. You paint with words. You paint images, scenery, smells, and emotions with words filled with color using the five senses. (A good resource to learn more about this particular relationship is Rebecca McClanahan’s book, Word Painting) which describes how writing is much like art. Both stimulate and feed off one another to illustrate the vision you have in your mind to capture the eye, whether it be the media of paint or the words of a writer. (More on this topic in a future post.)

Meantime, rid yourself of any morning blues by finding something new to try or something you haven’t done in a very long time, to bring light to your sometimes chaotic moments. And as I am reminded, to find value, ‘squint’. 

(Alcohol Ink on white tile by Sally)

New in the Writing Corner

Please see this place to submit and my piece that was accepted.


Thank you for reading.

Time to Turn…

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven- The Byrds, 1965

Autumn seems to be on many minds, and others are saying adieu to the dog days of summer, the long sunny days now shortening up, missing the lighter evenings that gather into soft late evening twilight. Autumn remains a favorite thus far. A change of season, a change-up coming forthwith. As a season moves aside, it allows a new approach, and we as people also move and prepare in various ways.

This past July was the first anniversary of A Way With Words and we are thrilled with the success due to our readers. It gave us gals a commitment to write every week for you readers, and behind the scenes, we clicked on Zoom for discussions of our writing ideas and styles, our moving forward, or goals, and encouraging one another not to give up on the many avenues we love to do in the space of the writing world.

Beginning this month, our postings will change from three times per week to once a week, and the writing prompts will be bi-monthly instead of each week. In our twenty-plus years of writing group experience, we met on a bi-monthly basis unless a catastrophe took us all to the moon in a paper cup, but alas, it didn’t. We found writing takes elbow room.

As of September 1, Diana opened her new website where she plants many thoughts and ideas whenever and wherever her creative notion takes her. Please be sure to continue to follow her reflections at wonkagranny.  Jackie and I will continue on our group website with lessons learned, to entertain, refresh our memories as well as yours, sharpen thinking skills, and encourage writing. As for Jackie’s other goals, she has a finished memoir that we deeply hope she will submit. She also has a burning desire to write children’s books that include her love of animals. Myself, I am actively working on individual pieces for literary magazines and anthology collections. I do have a serious piece of longer fiction that I will mold into a novella to submit, and segmented memoir pieces to be put in order…and I cloud watch. (see blog post May 17, 2023)


Stacks Book Club

Bookstore & Coffee Bar

Fall-inspired drinks.

Check out these dreamy flavors at this new place! Diana and I will be trying one of these yummy lattes on Thursday morning while we meet with the proprietor to further discuss a book signing event for our book, Telling Tales and Sharing Secrets…a perfect read alongside one of these foamy cups.  

Upcoming: Green Valley Writers Book Fair presented by the Society of Southwestern Authors (SSA) will be on November 25, 2023. (Details to follow) Diana and I hope to see you there!

Thank you always for being a part of our journey.