Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

IWSG, an UPDATE, and BEING THANKFUL

Posting the First Wednesday of every month, the Insecure Writer's Support Group, is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh. YOU can sign up HERE to participate.

Every month a question will be posed that may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Remember, the question is optional. You can write about anything that relates to your writing journey.

Let's give a warm welcome to our co-hosts: Julie Flanders, Shannon Lawrence, Fundy Blue, and Heather Gardner!

This month's question is: As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?
I think I would have worked more diligently on the revising/editing of my novel during the first half of the year, which got set aside once the hurricanes hit the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. But I won't beat myself up about it. Some things are just more important, like being a link to family in the VI with the "outside" world.

For the time being, I've decided to post once a month on IWSG Wednesdays. It's one small way for me to keep in touch with this wonderful blogging community. 


Post Hurricane Irma/Maria Update
It's been three months, today, since Irma slammed into the Virgin Islands. To say I've been on an emotional roller coaster ride is an understatement. It's been hard to wrap my head around 185 to 200 mph sustained wind with gusts of up to 250 mph. Nothing is quite like it was. The beach landscapes have completely changed with the loss of palm trees and ancient seagrape trees. 300 and 400 year-old trees are gone as are some 300+ year-old Danish buildings.  If that weren't enough, just two weeks later, the VI and Puerto Rico were smacked by Maria. What wasn't damaged by Irma was certainly tested by the terrible flooding. And Puerto Rico... There are still many people in the mountains who have not yet been reached... We will never know the true death toll.

I am reminded daily that NOTHING stays the same.

The most unsettling experience for me was watching a video taken on St. John a week or so after the horrendous flooding of Maria. As a kid I had the the whole island as my playground, I know this place. I know the roads, the landmarks, the trees... and yet, as I watched the video I couldn't tell where it was taken. I was completely disoriented and it was disconcerting to not recognize my beautiful island. The trees were blasted, not a leaf left anywhere. Barren twisted sticks stuck out of the hillsides looking for all the world like they had been consumed by massive fires or been flattened by bombs. Debris was everywhere piled 6 and 8 feet deep.

I confess, I've become a little obsessed wanting to find out what trees survived. The lignum vitae in Miss Meada's yard and the "plum" tree across the street, the tyre palms on Trunk Cay, the ancient tamarinds at East End and Lameshur, the mahoganys in Cruz Bay, the kapok at Caneel, the rain tree and bay trees at Cinnamon. On St. Thomas the baobabs and mamee apples , the tamarind at Nisky, the guavaberry tree, tyre palm and bay trees at my sister's house. I have wept as I learned the fate of each, whether it survived, was damaged, or is gone... Some I have yet to hear about.

I didn't realize how attached I was to the trees, how much each and every one meant to me. Landmarks in my life, landmarks pointing the way... "turn left at the tamarind and at the first flamboyant turn right." Landmarks imprinted on my soul, beating in my heart, swimming in my blood.
The Raintree at Cinnamon.
Scarred, but alive.
Photo by Radha Speer


 The lignum vitae in Miss Meada's yard 
featured in my novel, The Bowl and the Stone
Lost limbs but has put on new leaves.
photo by Radha Speer

But some things will take generations to return to some semblance of what they were before.
(Pictures courtesy of Radha Speer, a friend of mine on St. John)
Before Irma, Gibney Beach, St. John.
After. 

And yet, life goes on. Some people, whether they have lost everything or not, stay and rebuild. Some people, who have have lost everything and have the means, have left. And life goes on. And nothing stays the same, everything changes. 

As my sister and I have, for the time being, lost our income source (like just about everyone else) I now have a part time job...


Being Thankful
Today I'm thankful that my family and friends in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are safe, though day to day living is still difficult. I'm thankful that plant life is returning, that the hills are turning green, though the ecology may well be forever changed. I'm thankful that beaches are opening and the water is as beautiful as ever, though the shorelines have a totally different look. I'm thankful for the over 700 linemen who have come down from the states to replace power poles and string new line, though Puerto Rico is still struggling to get electricity to the city of San Juan. I'm thankful to the cruise lines who were the first to arrive with supplies and to help evacuate people and are now returning, a few ships at a time, bringing tourists, though their experience of the islands will be different than what it was pre-Irma. I'm thankful that my sister finally got her car out of her carport and is now able to drive herself around to run errands, though it took two months to clear the six foot wall of debris off her driveway and she is still without power. Daily I'm thankful for a myriad of small and large things and, as Christmas and the New Year approaches, will be thankful for many, many more.

And so, my new header picture is of a sunrise over St. John, taken from St. Thomas. Sunrise, because there is hope, because it is a new day. Because the people are VI STRONG, and like the Phoenix will rise again.

What are you thankful for?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hurricane Irma

As some of you may know, Hurricane Irma slammed into the Caribbean with a force never experienced before, and is still working her way through Florida.

All of my family on St. John, St. Thomas, and Puerto Rico are present and accounted for. I'm confident my cousins in Florida will be okay as they are on the east coast.

To say the area is devastated is an understatement. It will be 3 to 6 months before power is restored to everyone. It will take years to recover.

My sister, who lives on St. Thomas and I, were/and are mightily blessed to have had cell phone communication throughout. At the height of the storm we were talking and she said, in this very calm voice from the bathtub where she was huddled, "There goes the roof." Luckily it was "only" her porch rood which was picked up and hurled over the rest of the house and landed a good 40 feet on the hillside behind her house. Perhaps caused by one of those 200 plus mph gusts...

The trees and bushes have been blasted, branches twisted off, tossed aside and leaves stripped off. Many trees have had the bark stripped off them. One has to wonder how many trees will die.

If you have the stomach, a few random pictures with locations.

A section of our property on St. John. Most of the buildings survived in tact but have damage. The mahogany tree on the right will come back as will the tree on the left.

Cruz Bay, St. John
 Cruz Bay, St. John. That's three boats piled on the beach next to the ferry dock.

St. Thomas - The difference between a good roof and cheap roof. Cost-U-Less, a large bulk grocery store. In front, relatively untouched, the movie theater and shops. 

Boat yard - St. Thomas


 Disappearing road - St. Thomas

 Looking towards town - St. Thomas

Beautiful Magens Bay - St. Thomas

The Harbor and down town - St. Thomas

 Typical hillside - St. Thomas


Random damage - St. Thomas








The famous Bluebeard's Castle, St. Thomas

Interior of the hospital, St. Thomas. Despite a concrete roof the 3rd and 4th floors were destroyed. Patients have been evacuated to St. Croix and Puerto Rico.

A church on St. Thomas.


Good news, within three days the Navy arrived with a hospital ship along with the Marines. People in Puerto Rico, which wasn't nearly as affected is shuttling supplies and help back and forth from the eastern port of Fajardo. These private citizens are also taking people to PR who are in need of medical services. The Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean are sending ships to drop off supplies and pick up stranded people. All a body needs is have a passport if it can be found... Aid is coming from the 3 or more million Virgin Islanders, including Tim Duncan, who live across the U.S. The air strip is open (though the airport building was damaged) for relief and charter flights only.

Please keep my beautiful island home, and all those in the Caribbean affected by this storm, in your thoughts and prayers.

It is a bizarre and surreal experience to watch TV or open my fridge or sleep under a roof or drive unhindered to the grocery store or flip on a light switch or turn on a water tap, when I know my sister will not be able to do any of those things for a long time.

I will be off my blog for an indefinite period of time.

Being Thankful
I'm thankful all my family and friends are alive and okay.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

IWSG, National Read a Book Day, an Award, and Being Thankful

First and foremost: Please keep my family, friends and all Virgin Islanders and Puerto Ricans in the your thoughts and prayers as they face down Hurricane Irma, the strongest Atlanatic storm ever recorded. Sustained winds are at 185 MPR with gusts of 200 or more. I doubt the islands will get the coverage that Texas did (and deserved). But I can tell you media coverage would be helpful. And it pisses me off that The Weather Channel and national news channels are just talking about when it will hit Florida. What about 3.8 million people in the VI and PR? I bet if a storm this size were to hit Hawaii they'd be all over it. Why don't the islands rate the same kind of coverage? Could it be because in cases like Irma, once they were to get there they wouldn't be able to leave? There is no place to go, no evacuation. It's the really deal. When Marilyn hit in 1995, the islands got little to no coverage. Heck, nobody in the states believed it was a cat 5 storm even though wind gauges broke at 200 MPR. Four out five buildings were damaged or destroyed. My family home's roof was ripped off. It was months before power was restored and about three years before the house was rebuilt. It was a terrible mess, debris everywhere, boats tossed onto shore like pieces of legos, cars flipped on their sides and roofs, vegetation stripped of leaves. You can view pictures HERE. Iram is as bad or worse... To say I'm concerned is an understatement. (I have to remember to breathe.)

Posting the First Wednesday of every month, the Insecure Writer's Support Group, is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh. YOU can sign up HERE to participate.

Every month a question will be posed that may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Remember, the question is optional. You can write about anything that relates to your writing journey.

Let's give a warm welcome to our co-hosts: Tyrean Martinson, Tara Tyler, Raimey Gallant, and Beverly Stowe McClure!

This month's question is: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable in??


The answer to the first question is a resounding YES! I have some philosophical/spiritual stuff I wrote when I was in my late 20s early 30s that, when reread years later, totally blew me away. I wonder, "Who wrote that? Where did that come from? Where did that writer go and can I get her back?" 


I can answer YES to the second question, too. My current WIP is YA plus it's an historical fantasy that takes place in Tibet, all of which is totally out of my normal comfort zone.



It's National 
Read a Book Day! 

Pick a book, any book, find a nice comfy place and... ENJOY! 

(Dr.'s order!)










***
An Award
Quite by surprise I have received an award from The Lair of the Silver Fox for my post called, The Real America, which you can read HERE. I am humbled and honored. Thank you Silver Fox!

The Silver Fox's THRUST HOME! Award
This is NOT an award I can pass on. It's something The Silver Fox gives to bloggers for a particular post that he deems worthy of recognition. Here's what he has to say about it.

One of my all-time favorite stories is Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac. Cyrano often used the expression "Thrust home!" when fatally piercing an opponent during a sword fight. I've appropriated that phrase for... "The Silver Fox's THRUST HOME Award! -- Given to the Author of a Single Outstanding Blog Post."
And my rules for the award -- and the rules for its recipients -- are:
  • This award will be given by me, and no one else, and generally to only one recipient at a time.
  • I'll only give the award to those whose posts have truly "thrust home" with me, so even my best friends on the net might never get one.
  • The award will usually go to a post of what I deem to be of general import and interest, but that may be fudged once in a while to reflect my own biases. (My award, my stupid rules. Deal with it.)
  • There will be no set frequency for the giving of the award.
  • Theoretically, a recipient of "The Silver Fox's THRUST HOME Award!" may win once, twice... or forty-seven times! This is an award for individual blog posts, not for blogs!
  • Recipients would be asked to mention their receipt of said award on their own sites, along with a corresponding link to my own. And a little blurb on your sidebar -- feel free to copy and paste the graphic, of course! -- would be greatly appreciated.
  • Winners are not allowed to give this award to others.
  • Other than that, awardees are not asked to do anything else. You've already done it!
***
Being Thankful 
Today I'm thankful for any and all prayers for the Virgin Islands and surrounding area.

What are you thankful for? Has your writing ever surprised you? Received an award lately?

Monday, September 4, 2017

A Yellow Dragon Tale for Labor Day and Being Thankful

Island Idylls: Stories of growing up in the Virgin Islands.
In honor of Labor Day, this is a re-post (with some editing) from 2012.
***
About the first thing my parent's bought when we moved to St. John in 1955, was a Jeep. They got a 1948 CJ2 at Tropical Motors on St. Thomas and had it barged over to St. John.
The earliest picture of the Yellow 
Dragon, taken about 1957.

We called it The Yellow Dragon because Dad painted it a flashy yellow-orange and because it was indestructible.

We drove that jeep everywhere and it hauled everything from rocks to our boat. Once Dad even used The Yellow Dragon to rescue a bulldozer that had slipped off it's track!

Read about THAT adventure HERE.
 L to R: My sister, Erva, me, Dad, Nana (Dad's mom) Mom
and Pa's shadow. taken about 1960
Dad putting a new body on The Yellow Dragon, about 1960.
The Yellow Dragon hauling our boat, the F.D.O.
(which stood for Father's Day Off.)


Like a lot of people, we went to Coral Bay for the Labor Day Celebrations, which included donkey races, cricket matches, and lots of food. It was an all day excursion. One: because the roads were dirt and rocky and it took so long to drive there. 2: When we got there it was time to party, picnic, visit with people we didn't get to see very often, and go for a swim.

When it was time to leave we started up the road out of Coral Bay, which is a long, serpentine incline of approximately two miles, that rises from sea level to 1147 feet. We hadn't gotten far when The Yellow Dragon began to sputter and choke and eventually stalled out. We knew we had enough gas, so after coasting down hill Dad tried again. The beast started right up and off we went. Again, as soon as the way got steep, the engine sputtered and died. Several time we made the attempt, but each time we stalled out. In the process, however, Dad discovered if the engine was pointed down hill it started and everything was fine. It was only then the engine pointed up hill that it coughed and choked.

Something was obviously wrong with the fuel line.

To solve the problem Dad decided to back up hill. This helped push fuel from the gas tank (under the driver's seat) into the engine. All the way out of Coral Bay and up every hill we came to, he backed up the jeep. Whenever we came to a level place or a down hill stretch, he turned the jeep around. It was long, hard way to drive, craning his neck over his shoulder. A labor of love to get his family home.




Dad, being an ace mechanic (among other things) took the fuel system apart. Finally he found the cause of the blockage after he blew out all the lines. It was a cockroach! How it got in the tank and made its way through the lines remains a mystery.









***
Being Thankful
Today I'm thankful for all the people I've seen out and about
 buying up items to help with the Harvey disaster relief.

What are you thankful for? Ever taken a ride in a REAL Jeep? Do you name your vehicles? If so, please share! 

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Fifty Year Anniversary and Being Thankful

It's strange to realize it's been 50 years since the Summer of Love. So much was happening.  It was in the summer of 1967 that I was turned on to rock and roll. How could one not be? The music was phenomenal! The Doors with Light My Fire, Sgt. Peppers and All You Need is Love by The Beatles, If You're Going to San Francisco by Scott McKenzie (whom I would meet two years later), the Monterey Pop Festival with Janis, Jimi, The Who, The Mamas and Papas and Otis Redding - to name a few.

And where was I? What was I doing? I had the great good fortune of spending the summer with a family in Arlington, VA. I raised my own money to make the trip with matching funds coming from my parents and grandmother. It took a whole year to plan, save, and prepare. That summer I also traveled to Newark, NJ to visit and friend, and New York City to visit my sister, Erva, who was a student at NYU.

I took a lot of pictures. If you don't think the Clean Air Act had any affect, all you have to do is look at these pictures of Washington, DC and New York City to learn the truth.

The Capitol Building from the Washington Monument

The White House from the Washington Monument

The Lincoln Memorial from the Washington Monument

The Lincoln Memorial


 The Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial

My sister, Erva, in front of the Lincoln Center, NYC

Erva at the top of the Empire State Building
 

Me at the top of the Empire State Building

 Macy's and Gimbels from the Empire State Building

 From the Empire State Building

 Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry 

 The Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry

 Me on my last day.

I experienced so many wonderful things: Shakespeare on The Mall, being part of an "art" film, 4th of July fireworks over DC, walking around Greenwich Village, having a non-alcoholic drink at Cafe Wha?, seeing an off Broadway play about Jelly Roll Morton...

You wouldn't know from this post there was turmoil and tension happening all over the US. San Francisco was a kind of counter balance to what was happening elsewhere in the US. Just during the months of June, July, and August there were race riots in Tampa, Buffalo, Newark, Minneapolis, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Washington DC.

The Six Days War occurred at the beginning of June. At the end of August the American Nazi Party leader, George Lincoln Rockwell was killed in Arlington, VA.

 Yes, these times are very trying, but I have to believe there are young people out there who have experienced something good and wonderful this summer. We survived the '60s, we can survive these times too.

Being Thankful
Today I'm thankful Hurricane Harvey didn't dump a lot of rain on us. I know others in Texas are suffering. But this is the extent of our "damage."

What are you thankful for? Were you around for the Summer of Love? If so, share a memory! If not, would you have liked to have experienced it?