Veronica's Garden

I originally started this blog to promote my novel, Post Rock Limestone Caryatids. Now I write essays and poetry about everything, including the Flint Hills, healing, parenting, etc. WARNING: emotional content, sometimes intense. Read at own risk of feeling.

Tag: books

Keeping You Posted

Regular readers (all three of you) may have noticed I haven’t been adding posts much for a few months. There are a few reasons for that. After my NaPoWriMo sprint in April, the way I write changed. I write a lot more junk now, and revise a lot more, so the final result is that I have more poems coming out, but I’m not always sure when they’re done, and I don’t feel as much urgency to share them with the world.

At the same time, I decided to start submitting poems to magazines regularly, and publishers don’t like poems that have previously been published elsewhere (they don’t know it’s just for the three of you), so I have been holding back the better poems, and removing a few from the blog.

Most importantly, I am in the final stages of self-publishing a chapbook of poems. I’ve made revisions to some of the ones posted here at Veronica’s Garden, and some haven’t been posted at all. So if you have read poetry here, the book will have some material that’s new to you.

For now, the book will be only in electronic format. I still hope to publish in print early in  this coming year, through Ellen Plumb’s City Bookstore, but there have been technical delays and I don’t want to wait any longer. But you just might be able to get an ebook in time to gift it to your friends who do their reading on screens.

I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for reading Veronica’s Garden.

NaPoWriMo Day 30: Library of the Obscure

Domestication crept in gradually.
It may have started with books.
Remember when books held magical
stories you couldn’t find anywhere else?
When facts were precious, and libraries
were oases of information? In the house
where I grew up, books in every room.
And then I began to collect them.

In things, too, there is rich history
that no one notices, or cares to.
The antique field organ that could literally
be rolled into a field, worth nothing today.
My scientist father’s collection of slide rules.
The voting machine that elected W.
A map of the world that shows Rhodesia,
Czechoslovakia, two Pakistans, one Germany.
A Rolodex, a Commodore 64 computer,
CDs, records, cassette tapes, 8-tracks.
Film projectors and reels and reels of films.
If I had a house with endless rooms,
it could be a library of the obscure,
a museum of archaic technology,
a gallery of unknown artists.
A place one could wander, looking
at objects with history, stories,
memorials to people who are silent now.
We could fix the broken banjolele
and the flute from the 1930s and
play for the children dancing
in costumes hand dyed in the 1970s.

When the oceans drown the coasts
and the governments wither away,
we will be here on the prairie,
reciting the Latin names of medicinal
wild botanicals, hosting readings from
the collected works of Shakespeare,
preserving food in the way
of George Washington Carver,
keeping our deep humanity alive
with the old stories.

The Magic Room

Burnley Memorial Library is a tiny gem in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas. It’s like a walk-in Little Free Library. Besides a remarkably good selection of the usual library materials and computers, there are always piles and piles of books people have donated, which librarian Susan Davis loves to give away for pretty much any donation a person wants to give. This week I found Better Homes and Gardens’ 1975 Decorating Book.

I wonder if this upper space was originally in this house, or did it magically appear?

I wonder if the upper space was originally in this house, or did it magically appear?

I’ve written previously about the room that appears in a dream, a newly-discovered addition to familiar space. Here’s one I found in this book. I had to look a while before I saw the magic in a tiny loft, where a whole extra wall of space has been created for books. What might be taken for shelving turns out to be a ladder, lit by a skylight, that leads up into space that might previously have held nothing but air. Track lights illuminate the treasures to be found there. If I didn’t live in a single-story, 50s-modern building, I’d love to elevate my consciousness by creating such upper space.

What underutilized spaces exist in your life, waiting to be transformed and harnessed to your higher purposes?

A Friend I Never Met

Isabel's chair

My mother-in-law, Pat, told me more than once about an interesting elderly lady who lived near Matfield Green, Kansas. Pat thought I would love Isobel. Naturally I did nothing with that information, and then it was too late. After Isobel passed on, Pat agreed to sort the kitchen and take whatever foods were suitable for the county food pantry. The kids were on spring break from school, so we all went down to help out.

Part of the reason Isobel had so much food stored in her home was that she lived really far out in the country, on a farm, I’d guess more than thirty miles from the nearest grocery store. She canned jellies, salsas, relishes, pickles, and beets. She kept a phenomenal quantity of food in her little kitchen: boxes of pasta, bags of flour and rice, cans of vegetables and juice. We took several boxes to the food pantry, to be redistributed; and we threw out a couple big garbage bags of food that was too long past date.

The house was typically small, about a third of the size of the barn. The chicken coop was bigger than the bedrooms. It looked like it’d been a long time since there had been any domesticated animals there. The outdoor cellar was caved in. The plastic-sheet greenhouse was in tatters, pots strewn about in the weeds.

When I looked at her books, I knew that indeed I would have loved to have known this woman. She read widely, from classics to science, history, art, the Kama Sutra. Charles Dickens shared shelf space with Isabel Allende, Kelly Kindscher, and Crescent Dragonwagon. She had encyclopedias, several dictionaries including Spanish and Latin, three shelves of cookbooks of every style of cooking you could think of, at least one book in Chinese, and a basic physics textbook which had formerly belonged to a man who had been a colleague of my father. We had been asked to keep an eye out for a book on Scottish dancing, which was on loan from a friend at the time of Isobel’s demise. Sorry, Carol, we didn’t see it.

Also typical of rural midwesterners was her propensity to keep old things. When you’re more than a day’s walk from the nearest store, it’s the middle of winter and you have no way of knowing if the money will hold out until spring, repairing that old broken chair in the barn might seem a lot more appealing than going all the way to town to buy a new one. So keep the broken chair, in case that happens.

But what a life it was, and what a person she must have been, living with a degree of self-sufficiency rarely dreamt of today; in a place where human activity is miniscule compared to the enormity of the prairie; yet still she was willing to expose her mind to the diversity and richness of human culture and experience.

If friends can be apart for long periods and still call one another friend, can we extend that boundary a bit farther, to those whom we haven’t met, but surely would greatly enjoy if we did? I think I will. Goodbye, Isobel, and happy travels, wherever you are, my friend whom I never met.

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