The End of a Dry Spell

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Photo by Tijs van Leur on Unsplash

 

This crazy ol’ 2020 has been weird in a lot of ways. I think we are all getting used to a “new normal,” whatever that means.

During this time of shelter in place a lot of things have changed. Our old routines may be out of whack. How we go about the day is certainly different.

But these crazy days also have a lot of us searching for comfort in the same routines, if they are possible to keep. “Trying to normalize,” is what I keep saying. What did I do before? How did that go? Can do I that now and will it help me to feel normal during a time that is anything but?

One thing I have kept up with is my submissions of short stories. I have been doing my best to keep my work out there for well over a decade, and I didn’t want to let that drop right now. Even as most days I just want to slouch in a big chair and forget about the world outside.

I have found that being creative is very hard for me right now, too many things are occupying my mind. Working on getting submissions of work already complete out to the world is a normalizing process these days.

Despite my keeping the submission train running on time, 2020 has been a bit of a dry spell for acceptances. I had a lovely story published for Valentine’s Day in February (which had been accepted in December) and then the well dried right up after that.

Part of working to be published is knowing that these dry spells happen. They are normal and to be expected, and possibly a little more expected during this time of pandemic as we all figure things out.

So it was with great joy that in mid-September I opened an email from the editors at Bindweed Magazine with an acceptance. Whew! Feels good, you know? I get hundreds of emails with a no, so that yes every once is a while is tonic to a hardworking writer’s soul.

I’m now pleased to share my story “Possibilities. And Turtles.” with you. If you have a moment to give it a read, I would greatly appreciate it. And stay a while over there at Bindweed, there are some beautiful works to find in their pages.

Now more than ever, supporting the arts and artists matters, so I thank you in advance for the read.

Now if you’ll pardon me, I need to go do a whoop and a little click of the heels, then get back to the business of submitting my stories.

 

 

The More Things Change

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Part IV in a series.

There are a lot of times during my days, walking through this world, where I have small flashbacks or quick images that come into my brain. Not a hallucination, just a snapshot of a moment or a place or person.

A lot of the time the photostream of my brain shows me something about New Mexico. Some little atom or quark that is a building block of who I am. Meant to ground me, I think.

One image that seems to show up on rotation is being in either Old Town Albuquerque or at the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe and buying beautiful handmade jewelry from the Native American artisans who display their wares on beautiful blankets.

Heck, in the early days (like the 1970’s) you would also find Native American artisans selling beautiful jewelry at the airport in Albuquerque. This was well before anyone called it a Sunport.

On this trip I made to Santa Fe at the end of last month, one thing I definitely wanted to do was see the Palace of the Governors and visit the row of Native American artisans with hand woven blankets laid out, selling handcrafted jewelry. I can remember being a fairly young kid and negotiating for beautiful pieces of silver, turquoise and coral.

The one moment I remember most was being something like nine or ten and using my allowance money to buy a really pretty green malachite ring set in silver.

I remember that the artisan was dressed in traditional Navajo clothing with her hair wrapped in leather and a huge and gorgeous turquoise bracelet on her arm. She either didn’t speak much English or chose not to. She was quite stoic, I recall, but I had watched my mom buy jewelry so I emulated her way, right down to the speech pattern.

I found the ring, tried it on, and liked it very much. I caught the artisan’s eye, held up the ring and asked, “How much?” I think she said ten dollars. I replied, “Would you take eight?” and she nodded. Thus, I now owned a beautiful handmade silver ring.

I wore it for many, many years.

In fact, I still have it.

This is it:




The ring is so tiny, it barely fits on my pinky finger. As you can see, the stone has a small nick. I really did wear this ring everyday for a long time. I loved it. I still love it.



So on that sunny Spring day on the Plaza a few weeks ago, after stuffing ourselves to the gills at the India Palace buffet, I was ready to walk around and my best friend and her girls were ready to sit.

They found a bench in the bustling center of the Plaza and I walked with purpose to the line of artisans with their creations on blankets.

My heart raced a little because I was excited. I mentally calculated how much cash I had on hand and what budget I would allow. I love beautiful silver and turquoise jewelry.

I had heard a few years back that there was some controversy about people who were not of Native American heritage selling jewelry on the Plaza, so I wasn’t sure what I expected.

I was pleased to see that indeed, the majority of the artisans seemed to be Native American. They wore modern dress, but the look, the speech pattern, the very vibe of the artisans let me know these were my New Mexico Native people, and I was happy.

As I walked down the row, I became less happy.

The quality of the jewelry I saw was not what I had hoped. The beautiful hand crafted chunky silver and turquoise, coral, jade and malachite jewelry had given way to items that were cheap looking, manufactured not handcrafted, meager and not bold and beautiful.

In some cases, I half expected to pick up a piece and see a stamp showing me it was manufactured in another country.

To be honest, not even the blankets seemed to be handmade. The image, the memory, it all looked the same as I crossed the street, but under the adobe and vigas of the Palace, everything really had changed.

On the plus side, I noticed that the artisans were very friendly with all of the tourists, inviting them to pick up pieces and try them on. Asking where they were from and how they liked New Mexico. The stoic artisan seems to be a thing of the past as I’m sure being a bit friendly sells more items. Even as I type that it feels a little like selling out.

So there was a plus and a minus to the experience. I ended up buying a pair of earrings from a vendor across the street on the plaza. They are small inexpensive dragonflies and I hold no illusions that they are genuine Native handcrafted.

I walked away a bit depressed and I remembered that I get a catalog from Southwest Indian Foundation, and they call the style of jewelry that I love “pawn style.”

Pawn style. There were some people that I knew who got really amazing deals on Native American crafted jewelry from the rows and rows of pawn shops in Gallup and other New Mexico towns. I never did that. I shopped a few times, but couldn’t get over the sad feeling in my gut. These pieces of jewelry were given up because someone needed fast money.

As I made a loop around the Santa Fe Plaza, I saw a shop that claimed to have old pawn jewelry, so I went inside.

They weren’t kidding. Inside the huge retail space half of the store was quite literally filled with pawn jewelry. The shop buys dead items (meaning the time has expired and no one was able to come back and claim the pieces) and resells them.

Resells them at a gigantic markup.

I found a case full of earrings and at a quick glance found three pairs that I either own the exact pair or something very, very similar.

Earrings that I know I paid somewhere between fifteen and forty dollars for were now marked anywhere from $125 to over $200.

I felt a little sick to my stomach. On the one hand I thought, “Hell, I should get out all of my old jewelry and sell it!” and of course I knew I’d never part with it. On the other hand my heart broke as progress has to come to all things, even Native American jewelry.

In my personal collection is my mother’s stunning New Mexico Native American handcrafted squash blossom necklace. Would I ever sell this? Hell no.




This is a really profound piece of jewelry. My mother often wore it and she was always beautiful wearing it, too. The turquoise is quite rough and each individual squash blossom is different, to match the stone.


But I wish I could have strolled the Palace of the Governors and seen pieces more like that chunky squash blossom for sale. The product of training, silversmithing, craftsmanship, and a deep Native American tradition.

Alas no, like that hammered tin clock that used to hang over the Albuquerque Airport, my memories are only nostalgia. Museum pieces. They no longer represent what is meaningful for today’s children growing up in New Mexico.

I guess I understand now. Sometimes as a kid I used to jokingly say that New Mexico was forgotten, wasn’t important, backward. Now I know it really was something good. I got to grow up in a beautiful culture and a beautiful state that is like nowhere else in the world.

I am hardly the only person who has ever come to realize this about the time and place that they were born and raised. It’s a common lesson. You really can never go back. I can be in New Mexico again, and I can love it, but it’s never going to be what I hold in my memories.

That hurts inside. I yearn for something that doesn’t really exist anymore, except in my mind and have to find a way to be okay with that. As of today, right this moment, I’m not okay. Not yet.

I suppose the answer is that I need to spend more time back home in New Mexico. I have to learn to know what she was once and love her as she is now.

It’s my failure that it’s been so long since I was back home. I hope to improve a lot over the coming years.

There is so much I know about New Mexico, and so much I have left to learn.



Up next, the conclusion: Part V, The Roots of My Raising Run Deep






Images Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.




On Tenacity

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Earlier this week I received the results of a competition I had entered, and for which I held out great hope. It was related to my writing and even an honorable mention would have been a huge step forward for me.

While entering I knew it was a long shot, but I really believed I had a chance.

Predictably, when the results were announced I was nowhere in the list, and yes, this got me a little down.

That’s the trouble, sometimes, with having hope. A burgeoning flower bud of belief can so easily get ravaged by insatiable locusts (over dramatic metaphor alert!!!).

When one is a rather sensitive artist type, it’s hard not to feel steamrolled at such times. Then again, what separates the doers from the dilettantes is tenacity.

So after feeling mopey for several days I am starting to rally. In defeat my resolve becomes just that much stronger.

For almost two years I have been using a really wonderful service that forces me to submit writing to literary journals every quarter. They are strict taskmasters and they keep me focused.

Once every three months I send out about thirty submissions, of which most of them are rejected. This means piles and piles of both email and snail mail arrive at my door just to say “you are not a good fit.”

Amazing how something like two hundred rejections can really make a girl immune to the woes. It’s like a pair of ill-fitting shoes. At first it hurts, then it makes a really painful blister, then finally a callus forms. The thin skin has toughened to endure the scraping.

Like that.

This morning I was thinking back to about seven years ago, back before The Good Man and I had married, and he was living in San Francisco’s North Beach. A really cool new art store had opened on Columbus Ave. near his place and I was just beginning my foray into the visual arts. Visual arts were a big departure from writing, which had dominated my creative juices for so long.

I loved everything about the art store and bought quite a few supplies there. One day they had posters up announcing an auction. Customers were invited to submit art works and the store would display them and then at the end of the month, the store auctioned them off for charity.

Great! I was on board. I created an item to give to the auction and when The Good Man turned in my piece for me, he was asked to put a starting bid. Because he loves me and encourages my work, he put the amount of $50 as a starting price instead of starting at zero as most other artists were doing.

Later, when we walked into the store to see my stuff on display, my piece was at the very, very back of the store among the tools and shelves where they stretch canvas. My work was clearly more amateur than the rest of the offerings and it stood out as the only one using the photographic medium, but ok. It was on display which was a huge rush.

When the auction was finished, they called to ask me to come pick up my work. The rather arrogant and sniffly clerk informed me bluntly that my piece was the ONLY one that hadn’t sold (meanwhile, he gave us a flyer so we could attend his exhibit of butt ugly paintings at a local small gallery).

I was, of course, embarrassed beyond belief, humiliated and totally crushed. Being judged by a more experienced (and in my mind, more talented) artist just about did me in.

Just thinking about it still gives me shudders of embarrassment. This morning in the wake of my recent defeat I thought again about this experience. I recalled today that among all the donated pieces, my work was the only one that listed a starting bid.

All others put in a starting bid of $0, and they all sold. Snotty clerk said they didn’t have a lot of bids and bidders. All of this means that at the end of the auction, someone could have thrown $5 at a piece of artwork and would have won.

Today I understand that instead of being sheepish about that whole thing, I should be proud. I may not have sold my work but I valued my art enough to put a price on it.

Which is stronger? Valuing my own work and not selling it at that auction, or giving it away for free, thus saying the value of my work is nothing?

I know which one I choose. Today I have straightened my spine and I feel a little better.

In defeat, my mettle is being tempered, and that only makes me stronger.









Image from ScienceGuide.nl.




Can’t Even Fathom The Craigslist Ad

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On this beautiful bright late Autumn day, my friend Worm Girl and I went for our usual lunchtime three mile walk.

Between meetings and vacations and other distractions, it had been two weeks since we’d gotten together and there was much to catch up on.

As we strolled around the lagoon, we found ourselves tiptoeing about as there was a veritable minefield of goose poop decorating the walking paths.

“Oh my god,” I said as I shifted, parried and tip toed.

“No kidding,” she said.

Then we came across what was really just a large white splat. About as big around as a dinner plate.

“What the hell is that?” Worm Girl asked. “It’s like the bird ate a pack of sidewalk chalk!”

“I know, weird.”

And then we kept walking, leaving the chalky matter behind and discussing the kind of things two ladies discuss on a good brisk walk.

As we came around the backside of the loop, we saw a few groundskeepers doing their work. Not an unusual sight for a Monday.

But as we passed one guy, we both fell into silence, watching him.

He was on hands and knees with soapy water and a wire brush.

Scrubbing quite a few more of the chalky white patches.

After we were out of earshot, my friend said “Can you imagine…?”

And I replied, “Worst. Job. In. The. World.”

She said “How do you even list that work experience on your resume?”

“I know, I know…that guy is a saint, he really is. There is no way upon my boss handing me a wire brush and a bucket that I wouldn’t bolt from that gig.”

To be fair, the guy does all around work for the landscaping team and genuinely seems to like his job. He approaches it with a certain joie de vivre.

But to be honest, however crappy (pun totally intended!) I think my Monday is, it’s not that crappy.

Today I honor the kind of person willing to go to the mat, rubber gloves and scrub brush in hand, to make the world a little cleaner, a little nicer, a little more poop-free.




Just reloading here, boss.



Photo copyright 2010, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page.



Son of a &*$#^#ing mother *@!$&ing holy *&)^%$#!!!

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Look at it, isn’t it lovely? It’s own glimmering constellation. A shimmering planet hovering in space, reflecting the rays of light.

An ethereal orb. A beacon. A sign.





Or.

The m-effing new ding in my windshield. This was caused by a rock flung from the tires of a big truck as I drove down 101 yesterday afternoon.

It’s only mildly funny that it happened as I was smack in the middle of a great big yawn. Biiiig sleepy yawn and then *whang*.

And then the curse words. Lots and lots of curse words. A string of expletives befitting a sailor on shore leave.

Because, of course, this window pock is right at my eye level on the driver’s side.

Which means in addition to the other eight thousand things I have to do this week, I now have to deal with my insurance company.

One of my very least favorite things to do. Just above a DMV visit for a new driver’s license and one rung below annual lady physical.

Rattin’ smattin’ rootin’ tootin’ gall durn window ding.

Gah!







Photos Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone 4s and the Camera+ app.