Friday, August 23, 2013

Let's Have Some Love

I will be back again soon with a proper post about life, the universe and everything, but this is a simple appeal for some feedback on my novella, Fledgling Song (2013). If you've read it, please consider posting a review on Amazon or Goodreads or Barnes & Noble. (Or all three!) It is a fact that we live in an age when things are evaluated rather simplistically: thumbs up/thumbs down, five stars, or the ultimate limitation - just "LIKE". However, this is the language of our time - online at least - and if you would be so kind to speak up honestly and truly about what you thought, that would be very helpful!

To that end, I am sending the first ten people who write a review a free, signed copy of the book. So, let's have some love!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pull in the Bounty

There are times when you rock back on your heels and think, wow. Look at the feast about me, so much good. And it's easy to see. Plenty of other times, things send you falling back full on your rear end, and you're thinking the opposite. At least at first. But you still end up saying, wow. And maybe even (if you are open to it): look at the feast about me. The psalm-poet wrote that his God "prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies." And that sort of feast, in the midst of fast, is particular. Love is sharper and more poignant and pierces deep.

But these days, we are surely pulling in the bounty. My "five and country senses" are insufficient to take in the harvest. Like a poet said, "the five eyes break". They almost ache, they are so overladen with good. The other night was such a moment, felt in the half-light by dirt-encrusted fingers. After a back-bending day of hard labor pulling roots, weeds, snapping and cracking the dead wood, we paused. Above our heads, an apple tree heavy with early fruit. Below, the already-windfalls gave off a sharp cider smell. We stood beneath, expectant. There would soon be rain, the crackle of electricity in the darkening air. Shake it. Again. Just send a few more down, pound the ground with a shimmy up the trunk and a jostle. Watch your head! One smacks me on the back and I laugh. On the way home, the car smells of apples and the rainwater slaps the windshield like more fruit falling. I think, good. The gardens will rejoice themselves. We rejoice ourselves.

Another evening, I feast on sounds. They are everywhere, flowing in and around this home that I love. On the front stoop with half of a cigar and a book of essays by Marilynne Robinson, a jazz record giving its final contented crackle just inside the open window. And then- not silence, but something very like it. The click of a june bug in the light above my head, a cricket grating away on the front door, a faint train hallooing its reedy warning, kids down the block cackling, the wind cool in the trees when all else calms down. It was a concerted effort of the here and now to be full and complete and good. What an extraordinary thing in the already-not-yet world in which we live - that I might be present at such a gathering. 

May I be more present at such gatherings. 

The savoring of days through our mouths and tastebuds is bountiful above and beyond. It's astounding, really, when you tear up roots almost forgotten, and you find they've swollen beyond recognition, ready to eat. Last time you looked, they were seeds then maybe leaves. Have you ever had beets with fresh mint? Hardly a meal we assemble at home lacks at least something from the modest plots outside. Tomatoes, green beans, beets, radishes, crabapples, mulberries, juneberries, chard, zucchini, greens, bright yellow squash, and herbs of every savor.

I wonder. How long have we waited for this place without knowing it? Here, our home. It is a place where the creativity can spill out into all of the nooks and crannies, becoming a wildflower garden, a painted wall, a synthesizer line wafting up the stairs, a new sort of dish, an ingenious way to re-route rainwater, a collection of music next to the record player that turns and turns. We pull in the bounty of those turnings, those refashionings and renewings. We count now nine years between us and the black and white photograph. I like the French way of counting age - we have those years, they are a possession. We have seen many harvests -lean and plenty - and now we have a place where we can lay up our larder for a while. And I don't just mean beets and apples. Happy anniverary, happy home. 

Friday, August 09, 2013

Claire Meets her Mysterious Neighbor

She finished the last few hundred yards to the jardin, letting her fingers touch the rough spindles of the iron gate, painted over with more gleaming black to cover up the rust. She paused at the model of the small stegosaurus outside the Museum of Natual History adjacent to the garden. It always made her smile to see this ancient creature standing defiantly in the foreground of perfect rows of plane trees and manicured herb gardens– a funny mixture of scientific order and wild, unbridled eras of prehistory. Science really was a work of the imagination. This elevated Claire's spirits considerably, and she turned towards the length of the park stretched out before her, when a voice behind made her jump.

“How they thought up that creature from a pile of bones, beyond me.” Claire turned and saw her neighbor leaning on his cane, his gray beard pointing skeptically at the statue in front of both of them.

“Sir, you find it ridiculous?”

“In my time, we could identify each bone precisely within minutes with nothing more than a reference book, counting the occurrences in each square meter, measuring– the young folk these days with their computer simulations and what have you—they have no idea . . .”

“I love to count.”

“Eh? Oh well, good. Tant mieux.” Claire still could not place his accent, nor stifle her curiosity any longer.

“Sir, may I ask where you are from?

“Do you count bones, then?” he asked, ignoring her question.

“, I am studying microbiology—er—specifically in the Camargue region.”

“Humph. What are you doing here?” Claire felt her cheeks getting warm with the incessant
queries—and the ambiguity of this last one. She had not been obliged to explain herself to anyone for months, and had rather forgotten how.

“Sir, I—”

“My name is Arthur—Art.”

“Okay . . . Art. I am doing a stage here at the Institut Pasteur.”

“Oh, well. That’s good enough, I guess.” Claire meant to hide her disappointment at his dismissive
tone, but must have failed, for he cocked an eye in her direction from under his ever-impressive brow, and added, “I suppose you like that, then?” Like it. Well, yes. She turned in the direction of the stately building and opened her mouth to respond, but he interrupted her again: “I walk past those doors every day—part of my morning constitutional.”

“Why?” Her little word seemed rather bare and inquisitive, like a sharp scalpel, but it was too late to draw it back.

“Habit. I used to work across the garden, here.” Art turned slowly on his heel, poked with his cane at the chalky sand, and shifted his weight. “But now I’m the dinosaur.” He guffawed loudly, immensely enjoying the joke at his own expense. Claire smiled politely but dared no more. After his shoulders stopped shaking in leftover laughter, he nodded to her as if they were simply passing in the street, and continued his stroll across the shadow lines of the bare, leafless trees. He never had mentioned where he had come from, or where he was going. 

That evening, she ran a dull peeler over a few tired, rubbery carrots, hoping to revive them in yet another bowl of couscous. He’s worked in my lab? He walks past every day! How could this be the first time I’ve seen him? Claire shivered. Maybe he was the ghost of some former, misunderstood biologist, nervously floating through the gardens and halls, still vying for a long-lost peer review of a research paper. But seriously. She and Art had lived not eight feet apart for four months, only rarely crossing paths, never once exchanging words. Now, he kept appearing out of nowhere and thoroughly haunted her thoughts. She set the water to boil and grabbed her notebook, anxious to record the course of events, to better understand them, to give bodies to the phantoms wandering in and out of her brain...


An excerpt from my novella, Fledgling Song (2013). © Abbey von Gohren

Available now in paperback and ebook at: Electio Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble