Hello literary lovers. It’s time for me to stop teasing you about my upcoming book of poetry. Book number five–A Path I Might Have Missed–is alive!
The title and meaning? I chose the title, because it is a reference to the creative odyssey I might have overlooked (but fortunately found late in life and explored through my poetry). Plus, I just like the lyrical sound of these six words strung together.
The concept? It’s a wide-ranging collection of forty-two poems, which I wrote over a period of thirty years (from age thirty-six to nearly sixty-six). My poems cover a host of universal topics–love, loss, pain, discovery, truth, and transformation–with an eye to the ever-present influence of nature in our lives.
The content? The poems run the gamut. Some are reflective, probing, mindful, and deeply personal. Others examine the challenging times we face in contemporary society. I dedicated the book to my father, Walter A. Johnson. He was an unfulfilled poet.
The format? The book is organized into six sections: buds and blooms; fog and fire; magic and music; trials and trails; water and wonder; and stones and sky. I’ve included a photo of nature with each section, images I captured while living in Illinois and Arizona.
Just click on the embedded link below to reveal the cover of the book and purchase a copy on Amazon. Also, please leave your review online. I look forward to your comments and feedback. Thank you for supporting my creative endeavors. Happy reading!
If you follow my blog, you know of my love of gardening. I am particularly enamored of desert roses (aka adeniums), their thickened stems, their brilliant blooms.
Adeniums aren’t native to the Sonoran Desert. They are succulents from Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. However, they flourish in our bright, nearly constant sun. They thrive in our Arizona heat from March through November.
Now that my husband and I have lived in Scottsdale year-round for nearly six years, it’s a ritual for us to keep them indoors in our sunroom from December until mid-March, so they are protected on cool nights. Then, in mid-March, we carry them back outside to soak up the sun until the end of November.
Until this afternoon, I was the proud owner of two adeniums. One produces dazzling double-red blooms; the other has yet to bloom. (A third died a year ago. I think I over-watered it.) So today Tom and I stopped at Lowe’s for a new plant to adorn our south-facing, back patio.
As I scanned a sea of cacti and succulents, I spied this pink pearl adenium. Or maybe she picked me. At any rate, we brought her home. I found a suitable spot for her in this green, ceramic container.
She’s the perfect distraction–a gorgeous plant I might have missed–while I count the final days until my book of poetry emerges for all the world (or at least a smattering of poetry lovers) to see. Hopefully, by Easter. Stay tuned.
It’s March. The Christmas cactus adorning our den is definitely a late bloomer–and so am I. I turned 65 in July, but that number hasn’t deterred me from continuing to write, sing, and create.
When I close my eyes, I can still channel 18-year-old unaware me. Tall and thin with long straight blond hair in 1975. Seated in an uncomfortable wooden fold-down chair. Legs crossed in Middlebush Hall on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia.
I was an aspiring journalism major. One of a few hundred freshmen and freshwomen taking a required business course. Bleary-eyed from guzzling too much beer and demolishing late-night Shakespeare’s Pizza, we listened to our Marketing 101 professor.
He waxed on about demographics and American consumption. We doodled in our spiral notebooks.
What I remember most is that he told us the range of consumption occurred between the ages of 18 and 65. That’s when Americans had the most disposable income to spend.
The implication was that life, purpose, and relevance stopped after that. After retirement. After 65.
Of course, these days, life expectancy–for those who live to be 65–is more promising. But nothing is guaranteed.
At any age, “seize the day” is a smart strategy. Especially in your later years when (at times) it feels like you are riding in a runaway wagon racing downhill. Even if on most days you are enjoying the freedom and wisdom that comes with age as the wind rushes through your greying hair.
All of this is preamble to tell you that I am on the cusp of publishing my 5th book. It will be a collection of my best poems. Many of them explore love, loss, identity, discovery, disorientation, transformation, realization, and acceptance–spun through the ever-present influences of time and nature.
I began writing poetry in 1993. I was newly divorced, raising my boys as a single dad, working long hours as a communication consultant for Towers Perrin in Chicago, dashing for commuter trains, grieving the loss of my father, and beginning to understand myself and my emerging gay identity.
I have written dozens of poems over the past 30 years. Stashed them in an ever-expanding Word file. (If you follow me, you know I have shared some of them here over the past four years. The act of doing that has fed the poetry beast inside me. He’s now ready to emerge.)
Yes, at age 65 it thrills me to defy the logic of my marketing professor. To assemble my poetry and share it publicly–all in one place–for anyone who chooses to consume it.
On March 25, 2023, I will participate in the Phoenix-area Heart Walk, sponsored by the American Heart Association.
If you follow my blog, you know I am a heart attack survivor. You may not know that both of my parents died of heart disease: Mom on January 26, 2013 (almost ten years ago); Dad on November 26, 1993 (nearly thirty years ago). Both Helen and Walter appear frequently in my published stories.
Obviously, heart disease is personal for me and millions of American families. I hope you will consider making a donation to support ground-breaking research that keeps hearts beating and enables other unsuspecting victims of heart disease and stroke (like me) live longer and write new chapters.
As an added incentive, if you click the link below and donate $30 to the American Heart Association, I will sign and send any two of my books (your choice) to you. I’ll pay the postage and include two of my personalized bookmarks.
It’s been another challenging year for many. We won’t soon forget the previous twelve months … brimming with health concerns, natural disasters, social upheaval, global traumas, political shenanigans, and inflationary woes.
Why not end 2022–or start 2023–on a positive note with a light-hearted escape? From now until January 2, for only ninety-nine cents, you can download a copy of my book Tales of a Rollercoaster Operator on Amazon.
It’s a universal collection of tales that focuses on my love of family and pop culture. A nostalgic series of twenty-six funny and poignant essays about growing up in St. Louis in the 1960s and 1970s.
The final story in the book, A New Year Resolution, fills me with hope and the warm, comforting possibilities of life even after seemingly awful things happen.
I wrote it as a testament to the good citizenship of my father and mother, who did the right thing on a cold January morning more than sixty years ago.
Like any and every significant life moment, Saturday afternoon at Barnes & Noble in Mesa on S. Val Vista Drive produced a series of visual snippets–memories which today on the day after (and hopefully, always) cascade through my tired, but appreciative brain.
It was a quiet, yet meaningful, experience for this independent writer–connecting with a handful of aspiring writers and avid readers (unfamiliar with my stories).
Best of all, I was the fortunate recipient of another giant dose of love from family and close friends here in the Valley of the Sun.
Thank you, Tom, Glenn, Dave, Jeff, Nick, Anastasia, Libby, Gregor, Ron, Carol, Merrill, Torie, Jasmine, and Tashi. It was a thrill to sign my books for you and feel the warmth and encouragement of your creative spirits.
Back in July, I wrote a story about Barnes and Noble stocking my memoirs on its shelves in Mesa, Arizona.
A month or so later Rachele, the community relations manager, invited me to sign my books there.
It will happen on Saturday, October 1, from 1 to 3 p.m. at their Dana Park store, located at 1758 S. Val Vista Drive. I’ll even have the opportunity to read a few passages.
(No, it hasn’t sunk in that this independent writer will have this blissful moment in a large bookselling space among the work of more-renowned writers.)
Anyway, I realize most of you who follow my blog don’t live in the Valley of the Sun. But if you do–and you’re looking for a creative outlet this weekend and a story or two to add to your fall reading–stop by.
She’s been gone nine-and-a-half years. I no longer feel the frequent weightiness of her loss. But on this day–what would have been Helen Johnson’s ninety-ninth birthday–I do.
My mother was a lifelong gardener and nature lover. So, this morning–as a symbolic gesture–Tom and I walked the Desert Botanical Garden. It was quiet and muggy there; just us, a few other couples, and a parade of random reptiles doing push-ups on the concrete path before scampering off.
Grief is a tricky thing. If you’ve lost someone you loved (and who hasn’t?), the discomfort appears as an uninvited clunky extra, who wanders on stage to disrupt a scene … only to vanish until the next anniversary, birthday, favorite song, or serendipitous moment.
As a soothing balm, I have kept the treasure trove of hundreds of letters my mother sent me. They represent a lifetime of her wisdom–her pain, joy, uncertainty, pride, denial, and acceptance. It only became wisdom and the catalyst for my first book, because she had the foresight to share it.
Perhaps the image of her–sitting at her desk or dining room table composing another letter–is her greatest gift of all to me in my literary, later-in-life years.
Out of her death and my grief, I was able to comb the beaches of her life (and mine) and make sense of it. Her letters–like this joyous one from 1999, which I included in From Fertile Ground–are the meaningful shells that washed up on shore and remain.
July 11, 1999
I really enjoyed your visit! It is good to see you happy and at peace. The fact that you plan to end your group therapy indicates a confidence in your life’s path that is reassuring. I wish for you continued growth and success in every area of your life. The next 20 years should be your best!
The boys are growing up. Nick seems to have recovered some of his old verve and displayed more of the child of old than I had seen in a few years. As he matures and charts his own course as a man, more of that lovely, lovable child nature will return and be revealed to his family members. Kirk is still an adorable rascal and much fun to have around. Enjoy it. Everything can change quickly …
Love to you and the boys. Hello to Tom.
Two years before, in the fall of 1997 while vacationing with her sister Frances, Mom wore a light blue hat in this grainy photo. She scoured the South Carolina shoreline for seashells and shark teeth. She marveled at the way the ocean’s high and low tides polished their sharp edges.
Twenty-five years later, I marvel at the wisdom and intellect my mother shared and left behind. It is her letters and my love for her that linger.
Around the age of fifty, Tom and I nurtured our creative ritual.
On cold Chicago-area Sunday mornings, we bundled up and drove east from Mount Prospect to the Barnes & Noble in Evanston to browse books and movies, sip coffee, play Scrabble, and imagine “what if.“
Fifteen years later, I’m living on the other end of the temperature spectrum. Today, in the oven-like heat of this Sonoran summer, we drove to Barnes & Noble on Val Vista Drive in Mesa, Arizona. It’s about fifteen miles from our Scottsdale condo.
Remarkably, they’re stocking my books on their Local Author and Biography shelves. It feels like I’m living a dream come true.
If you’ve ever doubted your ability or passion (as I certainly did when the grind of life had worn me down), don’t give up. It’s never too late to carve a new creative path.