The River Runs On

The River Runs On

I

July 8, 2014

I’ve sat on this bank before in the summer.
Melted sunshine drizzling into diamond-flecked rivulets.

Mosquitoes nipping.

Dragonflies dancing.

Sweat sneaking down my spine.

The water looks the same as it did last year (and the year before that),
Wending its way through a loamy trough cut willy-nilly by a giant’s plow and his dancing horses.

I kneel down at the river’s edge,
The dampness of grass and moss tickling its way through rolled up jeans.
Last year (or was it a year before that or a year before that?),
Two other sets of summer-skinned-and-scarred knees bent on either side of mine,
Pressing into the river’s edge.

We practiced fishing with our hands,
Plunging our palms into the gold rushing by,
Drawing out treasures and whirligigs and smiles.

Now, alone at the water’s edge,
I search for past years’ gems.
Within the sameness that is not at all the same,
I cannot find what I am looking for.

Yet the river runs on.

II

June 13, 2016

You joined me again at the river’s edge.
This time on a stony shoal jutted out from the river’s bank,
Slowing the water’s rush into soothing shallows.

A time both long and short,
A time both sweet and tart,
A time when we realized how very old and young we were growing—
Both at the same time.

We reclined side by side,
The spring sun toasting our faces,
Our toes cooling in the river’s eddies
That whirled round river rocks and pirouetted past pebbles.

We allowed the world to slide on,
While we contemplated whether it was summer enough to wade in—
Or even plunge into the swimming hole around the bend.

It was a smiling time of living in dreams not relegated to night.

The temperature crept summer-ly so slowly,
I did not notice how long I had closed my eyes
Only to open them and find you poised on the far bank—
Ready to dive into rain-swollen rapids rushing past our pebbled peninsula.

As you slid silently into the sun-glinted river’s run,
Down-streaming toward deltas and the deeps beyond,
I scrambled to join you—just as far as the swimming hole—
I stumbled, a stone knifing through my knee’s skin,
Bleeding tears into the flow that
Wended you invisible round the river’s bend.

I had slept too long in the shallows,
We would not drink of the depths together—
This time.
Can we ever this side of Jordan?

And the river runs on.

~~To Be Continued~~


I’ve finally added a new stanza to a poem I began almost two years ago.

Who Are You? | Having the Guts to Tell Your Story

Who Are You? | Having the Guts to Tell Your Story

I started meeting with some younger writers about three weeks ago. (And yes, younger refers to their ages not their writing abilities.) We’re getting together to share what we’re writing, help each other with writing problems, and encourage one another. Sounds simple enough, right?

Sure, if you don’t mind being vulnerable and turning yourself inside out for the world to see. Readers who have never written something intended for an audience beyond an English teacher may not have experienced the odd combination of terror and excitement that comes when you first read your own work to people you don’t know well. I imagine, however, that most can identify with this sentiment pulled from my About Page:

Sometimes it feels like our story isn’t worth sharing. It’s not as perfect, polished, or awe-inspiring as the person next door…we feel like our lives are just a trickle in the grand scheme of life.

Have you ever compared yourself and felt that way? I do this more often that I like to admit, but now, whenever those feelings rear up inside me, I remind myself how ugly it is when my eyes roll back into my head and stare at myself rather than looking outward as they should. It may seem that keeping focused on others means we shouldn’t talk about ourselves, but that can’t be the answer. We’d become a planet of mutes, which is difficult to imagine. And what about exhibitionism, tattle telling, slander, gossip, soap operas, and the like? We all know people who have no filter or can’t stop talking about themselves or use story as a weapon to hurt others. Do I really want to encourage that kind of behavior? The answer is, of course, no. So what am I saying?

Have the guts to own who you are and know your story. Be ready to share your story* when it can redeem the moment and encourage others.

I’m working on owning my story. I still stumble over my words when I am put on the spot and must reveal I’m a writer. On the other hand, I’m becoming less afraid to share other parts of my story—scenes and chapters that in the past were too painful to even think about much less verbalize. Think about your life. When have you experienced pain, failure, or embarrassment? Now, think again. When have you experienced good, beauty, and redemption? Think on those things. Share them when prompted. What’s your story?   *When I say “story,” I don’t mean that you tell the 15-volume, one-million-word version every time you share it. In life, abridged versions are usually desirable.

Photo Credit: L. Yost

Four Dollars and a Penny for My Thoughts

Four Dollars and a Penny for My Thoughts

I know what you’re thinking. What’s with the four dollar increase on the price of thoughts?

Here’s the deal. Today on Amazon, the paperback version of my short story collection, Refractions, is on sale for just $4.01. If you add it to an order that is $35 or more, shipping is free!

Buy the Paperback

If you’d rather download the eBook version, check out My Book Table for links to Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

Buy the eBook

If you’ve read the stories already, I’d be grateful if you’d take a few minutes to leave a review on the site where you purchased the book or on my Facebook author page.

Review from Amazon.com: 

Three short stories: Wordsmith Sherri Tobias brings us into the lives of Carla, Leila and Ms. Jenkins. Each story explores the mysteries of what makes our minds tick. What happens when we are uprooted from familiar surroundings and when new beginnings are disappointing? What makes communication so difficult for newlyweds? Why is it so hard to break into an already established circle of friends? How do baby blues and other forms of depression affect our lives? How do unexpected sources bring us communion and consolation? What happens when an injury or illness interrupts our passion, and when the life of nature inspires us? And what dark secrets or grief lead us from light into darkness? Each story explores the hope of renewal as Ms. Tobias poignantly brings us into the minds of each protagonist. I wholeheartedly rate this short collection 5 stars and look forward to reading the upcoming novel written by Sherri Tobias.

Review from Facebook Author page:

I just had to let you know I finished reading your book a couple of weeks ago and loved it! Ms. Jenkins is such a moving character, that her story has stayed with me; hers was an especially touching story. And I have to tell you that I been craving tamales since I read “Liquid”. I am looking forward to reading more

Leafless | A Poem

Leafless | A Poem

I sit here, willing words to wend their way onto the page,

Shaking the fall-stripped branches of experience for one bright memory

To press between the pages of gilt-edged books,

But the “so much” that has happened dances away on tendrilled winds.

The “and yet so little” stills my fingers.

What is one more dead leaf in a forest of trees?

My mind’s sap runs slow in these chilly-ing days of fall,

I find much to do and little to say.

When Life Gives You Garbanzo Beans

When Life Gives You Garbanzo Beans

Many moons ago, one of my college roommates brought a case of canned food to our apartment to supplement our collective pantry. The kicker—the cans did not have labels. I don’t remember where she’d procured the food, but I do know we only had two ways to know what was in each can—open it or decipher its stamped, computer-generated code. She knew what the codes were, so as long as we asked her, we avoided pot-luck dinners.

I used to wish that the paths of life had clear labels like the rows and rows of products in the local supermarket. When I was starting out, the array of life choices was overwhelming. As a budding perfectionist, I imagined only one route through life was correct for me, and I could find it if only I could decipher the clues. So I set out on a quest to “do” life as perfectly as possible by cracking its “codes.”

Utilizing the experience of others whenever possible, I avoided unwanted waste and surprise when opening up life’s cans, but I found that life often gives us uncoded cans that no expertise or X-ray vision can penetrate. You simply have to open them up and figure out what to do if you wanted cherry pie filling and ended up with garbanzo beans.

Four decades into the journey, I can’t say I always enjoy opening an unknown life ingredient, but maybe I’m infinitesimally closer to accepting life’s little and big surprises. So instead of cherry pie, what would you say to a Deep Dish Garbanzo Bean Chocolate Chip Cookie?


 

(And just to prevent a heated discussion about life being au naturel—not frozen or canned—may I say all metaphors break down. I’d bet my can opener on it.)

Crossing the Bridge | Happy Half Year

Crossing the Bridge | Happy Half Year

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I returned from a trip to the state of Washington to celebrate our daughter’s graduation from college. We drove there over the course of four days taking the northernmost U.S. route–Route 2–from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan all the way to Montana before dropping down to Interstate 90 to cross Washington.

The trip required traversing the Rocky and Cascade mountain ranges. I knew from our last trip that I did not want to drive through one of the highest mountain passes in Washington, so I agreed to drive across the plains of eastern Washington. My husband rested, promising to take over for me when we got into the foothills of the Cascades.

We were zipping along a sunny, flat expanse when the road started winding long before I expected it. Then the wind began gusting and whipping around though the sky was bright blue. Traffic forced me to clip along at a brisk pace, and we hurtled up and around a curve only to see the one thing worse than driving through a mountain pass in my book–a long, long, long bridge over the Columbia River.

I’d forgotten about the bridge.

Since I was busy avoiding rappelling down a mountain in a mini-van rather than snapping photos, I’ll have to direct you to another site to see a picture of this most terrifying feat of architecture. The winding, hilly road leading to the bridge gave us ample opportunity for sneak peeks of what was to come but provided no place to pull off and change drivers. I missed all of the turn-offs. I was going to have to cross the bridge going around 70 miles per hour with a gusting cross wind capriciously trying to flip us into the Columbia.

I thought that bridge would never end. I won’t even attempt to convey the terror I felt in those few short moments of my life. Suffice it to say, I pulled off at the first possible spot once we made it to dry, solid land. Unlike that safe place, my face was not dry and my constitution was about as solid as a half-chilled Jell-O Jiggler.

For some reason this story came to mind as I was contemplating the fact that 2014 is now half over. How has 2014 gone for you so far? Are you zipping along through the plains of life? Or are you climbing  a mountain or broken down on the side of the road?

Whatever the case, this halfway point is a good time to pull into a rest stop and consider how the journey is going. Here comes the rest of 2014, and ready or not, we’re crossing that bridge.

 

This post’s picture features another bridge we crossed on our journeys–the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan.