As part of a writing challenge, I wrote a scene inspired by Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18, Adagio Sostenuto. The music is wonderful, and you can listen to it by clicking here.
While I listened, I had these thoughts:
A great understanding
She realizes her true worth
A pleasant place has been found
Seeing God in natural things around her
As I began to write, the “her” in my thoughts became the girl in an image I discovered on a Black history website. No names were included with the image, so I named the girl “Netta.” The Rachmaninoff music moved me to write a poem-like paragraph within the scene that highlights a time of joy for her as she makes her way to a favorite and secret hideaway:
Netta was free.
No pig priming. No cotton picking. No running with the dogs to stomp the land.
No itching legs and bleeding palms.
She could sing, she could run, she could laugh,
See the sky, and look beyond what it was to what it could be.
It led her down deep to the place of peace.
Though she wept, it was a cleansing joy,
a soul-lifting moment of free.
The image of the young girl (Arkansas, 1935) and the story it tells bring up a great sense of sadness in me. I cannot help but try to imagine a time of happiness for her.
Here’s a bit of fun for language fans. Maybe you’ve already seen this, but it was only recently that I discovered this gem. English speakers do something naturally with adjectives, according to author Mark Forsyth:
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien wrote his first story aged seven. It was about a “green great dragon.” He showed it to his mother who told him that you absolutely couldn’t have a green great dragon, and that it had to be a great green one instead. Tolkien was so disheartened that he never wrote another story for years.
The reason for Tolkien’s mistake, since you ask, is that adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac. It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out. And as size comes before colour, green great dragons can’t exist.
If you have your doubts, come up with a descriptive sentence of your own and place the adjectives outside of Forsyth’s listed order. It’s a fascinating exercise!
From The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase, by Mark Forsyth (2013).
School Picture Day is the annual Fall occurrence of best wear and toothy smiles in schools across the country. My school’s Picture Day happens next week, and the event is stirring up fond memories of my mother preparing her children for that day.
Other than Easter Sunday, the Lowe Kids never looked better during our elementary school grades than we did on Picture Day. Mom would make sure we were wearing our neatest and nicest. And on the evening before the day, she would “press” the girls’ hair with the hot comb and use foam curlers to set the curls overnight. When we left for school, Mom had her little girls ready to stand before the camera, with a send-off of “Don’t let that cameraman touch your hair!”
The badness and sadness of this world can be overwhelming. As a writer, my aim is to create uplifting stories of goodness and hope and make them available to those who visit my website.
With that in mind, I want to bring you in on a story I’m writing. The working title is OK, Boomer, and it is one of the Story of the Monthstories that I am writing to fill in the earlier months I missed. My “new and improved” website was launched earlier this month, and I’d like to have a story for January, February, and March, too.
December 31, 1999, 11:55 p.m., stiff chair, home office:
Picture me in front of my Gateway computer, watching the digital clock tick off the minutes. I was alone and anxious. At midnight, the Year 2000 (Y2K) problem would either occur or not. If the experts were correct, my computer, their computers, the entire world’s computer systems would fail.