finally, rain

We've had the best rain this week. Thunder, darkening skies, steady showers, even downpours, then clearing and the sun shines again. For a drought-weary city, this rain has been a blessed relief. The garden lives again (no amount of watering helps a parched garden, especially when watering restrictions are in effect), and there are indoor things to do.
A rainy evening calls for cookies. Thanks, Hannah.
A rainy afternoon calls for a cucumber/tomato salad... the last of the farmer's market produce this week. We eat in Irene and watch the rain sluice all around us, like a curtain. The smell of rainwater on dry earth is exquisite. My Aunt Mitt used to say, "Just smell the earth! I like to think God washed it!"
A little hula hoop practice is good for the rain-bound soul.
And a little administrivia. Web page building, email answering, work-related phone calls, and bill paying. All a distraction while waiting for the sun to come back out.
Thanks for all the anniversary good wishes yesterday! We had a wonderful day doin' nuthin' much.

What do you do on a day when you do nuthin' much? What do you do when it rains? Pull out your notebook and write one paragraph, one pomegranate, full of the most luscious details you can muster. Write with nouns and verbs.

Have a great weekend.

wish i was married...

From "Marriage Chant" by the inimitable Greg Brown, danced/hooped by the amazing Beth Lavinder:

marriage is impossible, marriage is dull;
your dance card is empty, your plate is too full.
it's something no sensible person would do,
I wish I was married... to you.

Happy 2nd Wedding Anniversary, Jim.
So glad I am married... to you.

the correspondence project

I've created and have begun tackling several projects in this almost-year home. One of them is correspondence. The picture below is the mail I received on Friday. I am behind in answering mail. So waaay behind -- I don't even wanna tell you.
But I will, because I want to document this project, the correspondence project. I have boxes of letters like this that have not been answered. I am going to try to answer them now. For years I was juggling so many balls simultaneously. Here's part of a synopsis of 2000 to 2004:

1. as my first books are making their way into the world, wade through becoming suddenly single and negotiate difficult and contentious divorce. This will take years.

2. take care of family home amid termite invasion, flood from cock-eyed window air conditioner, furnace break down (so no heat in winter), no working lawnmower (knee high grass in summer), and no trash service (couldn't afford it).

3. be there for my children, try to make it to their games and plays, try to be there for jobs, moves, relationship travails.

4. find rewarding work in schools, at conferences, and travel-travel-travel.

5. find rewarding work teaching teachers at Towson University and negotiate the world of 58 students and their papers and academia while also doing the travel-travel-travel two-step.

6. finish my MFA in writing from Vermont College, requiring two ten-day stays twice a year in Montpelier, Vt. on campus, while also doing the travel-travel-travel which includes many trips to Mississippi...

7. watch my mother die of cancer in Mississippi and my father go right behind her, three months later.

8. write Each Little Bird That Sings in airports, hotel rooms, at home in my bed, in my bedroom office, in waiting rooms, on soccer fields, and in early morning quietudes, and in the three months I took off the road to finish it. Pour my grief and loss into that book and package up the fan mail that arrives for Ruby and Freedom Summer, neglect the thank you notes and correspondence I need to attend to, but get the next book written.

9. burst with pride as my youngest graduates from high school and try to help her find her way through the college morass without killing her or her killing me.

10. begin a new relationship that turns out to be the blessing of my life.

11. sell the house I lived in for 25 years -- fully half my life -- and move to Georgia. Which is when the family dog died. She was 13. I think she had just had enough, sweet soul.

What a time.

I began a new life when I moved to Atlanta, but I didn't let go of the travel-travel-travel. I increased it. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to take care of myself financially -- how in the world would I do that? I was on the road more than I was home, the past five years. I didn't have time to put down roots in a new life, but I found that I could do this -- I could take care of me and mine, but I couldn't get much writing done. I couldn't answer mail. I couldn't even keep up with friends.

And now I want to remedy this. I am home. I have sold The Sixties Trilogy, which allows me to be home for a stretch, and I have finished book one. I am finally putting down roots in my new home town, and it feels so good, so right. I'm finally centered, grounded. I'm ready to tackle the projects on my list that have been asking for my attention for so long.

So. The Correspondence Project. If you are in that pile of mail at the top of the page -- you'll hear from me soon. I'm going to start with the most recent and work myself backwards. I'll be writing about how I do this and how it works, as I go.

I'm so grateful for readers, for an audience, and just as grateful for friends and family, so many of whom helped me through the past 9 years so I could come to this resting place intact. I want to be more present. Now I can be. Thanks for waiting on me.

into the weekend appreciating....

1. One young man talking tuba with another young man while yet another young man listens nearby. You are looking at three tuba players (past, present, future) in one room.
2. This wedding processional. ha! What joy!

3. This bread. It will be rising in my kitchen this afternoon.

4. This garden -- his first in Atlanta.
5. These two D.J.s -- my favorites... and their set up.
6. This recipe from 101 Cookbooks for roasted cauliflower popcorn. We enjoyed it last night with season two of Mad Men. Gotta get ready for season three on August 16. I also appreciate the young woman who watches Mad Men with me. We love Betty's dresses. We can't stand Pete. Or can we? We.... it's fun to hash it over with another fan.
7. This insightful, honest post about how hard self-sufficient, sustainable living is to accomplish.

8. This new ice cream maker. Brace yourselves for the ice cream posts.

9. This new-to-me blog, 100 Days in Glacier National Park -- what photos.

10. The book list I'm putting together for the beach. I'll share summer reading if you will...

Happy Weekend. What are you appreciating right now?

the fullness of days

Just photos today (lots of food and music... hmmmm). We've had a house full. Here are... stories. This is what we've been up to. You?
I've been posting the blog to facebook, and facebook hasn't been picking up photos lately. I'll figure out a way around this just as soon as I recover from all the festivities.

the cat came back

The ingrate. Just look at him, belly on the cool wood floor, little right foot sticking out so coyly. We rescued him from the bushes two years ago, when he was just a few weeks old, nurtured him to health, spent a bazillion dollars in vet bills -- he was always getting torn up outside by some thing or some other cat. We cooed to him and coaxed him and played with him and educated him and lovingly encouraged him to love us right back even as he chewed on our fingers and nipped at our ears -- hahahahaha. Our mistake.
Here is Cleebo, named for the same character in The Aurora County All-Stars. Cleebo the Clueless, I called that character. But this Cleebo is not clueless -- he's wily and crazy like a fox.

He stays away for months at a time. Yes, months. He returned at Christmas after an absence of a month, and we rejoiced. He sauntered in, chowed down, and waltzed right back out the door. He was gone for over two months this spring -- we were sure the coyotes that live across the way had gotten him. But here he came on the Fourth of July, still wearing his collar and name tag (with our phone number on it), loping down the driveway like he'd never been gone a day, right past me as I stood in the garden and watched him, my hands full of weeds.

We were overjoyed to see him the first time he came back. We had been so worried about him and had missed him so much. Now, when he shows up again, we hardly move. Someone says, still lovingly (we are suckers for Cleebo, we can't help it), "you ingrate..." as he sashays past us heading for the food bowl. Then I make sure he has his flea meds and is up to date on his shots before he can get back out the door.

He has been in and out since July 4, and I don't know if he intends to stay for a while or not. I've thought about writing about this cat, making up a story for a picture book, but I don't have a strong attachment to that idea, and I need that strong pull to the heart before I can make any story successful, so I'll pass on using Cleebo as a story idea.

So I won't write about Cleebo, and I don't write about my children or grandchildren or even the present day. I tend to plumb my young life for stories instead. I always go where my heart leads me, in trying to tell a story. The craft can and must come later. But if my heart's not in it, if there's not something strongly and steadily pulling me toward writing a story whether or not it ever becomes a book, then I leave it alone -- it's someone else's story to tell.

I've got four or five stories clamoring for my attention right now. I've got to turn my full attention to book two in the sixties trilogy soon, but I think I can work up one of these shorter pieces now. Which one is yakking the loudest? Time to sit down with my notebook and see.

i do everything differently now

This morning I mowed the back yard then walked two miles with Jim at the nearby park, then made peach banana smoothies in the blender, got a luscious shower, sat and talked with a friend by phone, then made myself a tomato sandwich and came in here to write to you, because I realize... I do everything differently now.
I picked up a bazillion pine cones and sticks before I mowed.

I mowed slowly. I paid attention to what I was doing. I was meditative, even in the heat. I sweated a lot.

The peaches are from the farmer's market. I go to two local markets each week now. I am getting to know the farmers. They remember me, too.

I'm cutting out material for a bag I'm going to sew. I'm hanging out with my new friends. I'm watching my grown children create their adult lives. I'm planning a vacation. I'm listening to new stories in my head as they compete for attention -- me! no, me!

My pace is different, without a deadline or the next travel coming up. Life feels expansive. I'm grounding myself in Atlanta, centering myself, planting my feet firmly in my new life.

When I became a suddenly single parent in 2000, a friend told me, "It will take ten years to ground yourself in a new life." It has been almost nine. I'm finding my rhythms, finally. Taking this time off the road is giving me a way to do this. I hardly knew which end was up for such a long time.

Then I moved to Atlanta five years ago and got right out on the road again. It was good work that I was grateful to have and I made good friends, but I never got to settle into any kind of routines in my new home. So now I'm picking up pine cones and getting to know the local farmers and their produce.

I'm finding a rhythm to the day, a cadence to the season, and the measure of a new marriage, as well. It takes time. I look around me now and notice -- I have space. It is a glorious feeling.

So I do everything differently now. And when I go back out again, I will have had the time to become planted in the household tides of a homeplace once again, and the travel won't overwhelm me so much. I'll come home and slip back into the routines and rhythms I have established in this time off. They will be here waiting for me.

Lucky. I am lucky, all around. "We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it." That's how I feel today.

breaking bread

Carl and Linda visited last year, and we hiked Stone Mountain in 100-degree heat. We survived and -- wonder of wonders -- Carl and Linda returned this year with daughter-in-law Amy. This year, I was more sane in my suggestions, and I also wanted dearly to connect old friends with new -- to gather my widening circle of family around me.

Linda is an expert break maker. "Will you teach me?" I asked. And she did.
"Want me to cook?" asked daughter Hannah. Oh, yes, please.
We volunteered Carl and Jim to be documentary photographers. They laughed so heartily at their outtakes, I snapped a photo of them at work.
Jerry and Cyndi walked in carrying guitars. "We're just followin' instructions," they said.
"I brought a chocolate cake from Ruthie," said Laurie.

With introductions all around, a savory Mexican lasagna on the table, fresh bread from the oven, and a salad tossed together with lots of hope and affection, 12 of us feasted together, told stories, laughed and joked and asked great questions, listened intently, and pulled the ice cream out of the freezer to go with the cake.

As the sun set and the candlelight played across our faces, I put some decaf in the French press, the guitars came out of their cases, and my banjo made its first live appearance.
We picked and strummed and sang while we enjoyed the breeze and the conversation. This is what life is all about. Breaking bread and making history, one with another.

Thank you, friends. Thank you, family.

free range

This is how I spent a part of my summers growing up. We went to Mississippi, to visit my grandmother, the real Miss Eula, and to see all the cousins, aunts, uncles, and assorted neighbors who always exclaimed over how much we'd grown. I'm on the left, my cousin Carol is beside me, my grandmother is in the middle, then my brother Mike and my cousin Bubba. Yes, Bubba.

Those were idyllic summers. So were the same summers I spent growing up in Camp Springs, Maryland, in the house at the corner of Allentown and Coolridge Roads. This is where my character Franny grows up in 1962, in my new novel. Something like her summers is described in Roger Ebert's journal here.

I loved those summers, too, Roger.

Readers wrote in, including one who wrote about the movement to raise "free range children" today, and Roger penned another article, about "free range kids" here.

I grew up largely free range in the sixties, and I tried to give my children that kind of childhood as well, although they were less sheltered than I was. However, Ebert makes the argument (with some flaws, I think -- it's not that simple) that today's kids are so over-protected, over-scheduled and over-committed that they have no childhoods.

What do you think?

I love Roger Ebert on so many levels, but that's another story for another day. I love the feeling of free range this summer, this first summer in 8 years I haven't traveled for work. The novel is off my desk for another week or so, until it comes back from copy editing. I'm beginning to write in my head again, so I know it's almost time to sit back down to the page.

I'm renting a house on a beach in August. I'm planning to write a book there. I'm hoping to play lots of Scrabble and gather shells, slap mosquitoes, wash the sand off my feet, eat good food, commune with whomever shows up to visit, love my husband, sleep long sleeps to the sound of the ocean waves, and let the words flow onto the page. Free range.

loving right now...

1. The new, summer blog header. Check it out! I made that limeade.

2. The possibility of renting a beach house on Folly Beach (aren't those photos luscious?) in Charleston for a week this summer. Should I? I've found two I love. We haven't gotten away for a week, as a family, just to get away, in 8 years -- maybe it's time.

3. These two books, published before I was born and full of excellent old advice. And terrible old assumptions!
4. This apron, handmade for me by daughter Hannah, and worn with pride by me. I'm an apron junkie, but have never had one made for me. Thanks again, Dearie.
5. The savory idea of friends arriving on Monday from Frederick -- we are already planning the dinner menu.

6. The delicious anticipation of a family visit next weekend.

7. This book, which I am carefully (and noisily) making my way through. I love Pete's writing voice as much as his instruction. This is a classic.
8. The two miles a day that Jim and I have been briskly walking at the nearby park. It rearranges... everything.

9. The summer crops coming in at the farmer's market. Bought my first sunsweets this week.

10. This thrift store find. Two bucks. Now it needs cushions. Where is Hannah? :>
11. Having readers. Thanks for hanging out here with me. What are you loving right now?

Have a great weekend!

old azaleas and new bottle trees

I hated losing the old azalea by the road, so I cut it way back and made it into a bottle tree. This is a work in progress. So many people (what fun!) wrote me yesterday with their playlists -- from Bach to Hendrix, from "Captain Kangaroo" to "American Pie" that I'm tempted to ask you today about the bottles in your life. Ha!
Maybe we shouldn't go there. On the other hand, I can't think about my Mississippi summers without including Yoohoo, Nehi Grape, Orange Crush, and those 10 oz. bottles of Coca-Cola my grandmother lined the door of the refrigerator with when we'd show up to visit.

Then there was the lemonade drink my dad made every summer, no matter where we lived. I remember it in D.C. the best, in the same house that Franny grows up in, in this new novel.

Crushed ice in the blender along with a can of frozen lemonade and extra sugar. That what the kids got. Then, Dad made an extra batch for he and Mom, to which he added a jigger of Canadian Club.
You could write a scene from a memory like this, couldn't you? I challenge you to that scene. I'll write one, too.

I've been saving these bottles for a long time. I'm going to have fun arranging them, and remembering.

the soundtrack of your life

Here it is. The 1962 Novel has a playlist. Here are the songs mentioned in the book, the songs that are the soundtrack of my heroine Franny's life. You'll recognize Broadway, film, political polemic, humor, poetry, hymns, marches, jazz, rock, pop, R&B, country folk, anthems, classical pieces, spoken word (including a snippet of JFK's Cuban Missile Crisis speech and the Duck and Cover PSA) and a hint of the British Invasion to come.

You'll also read a snippet of the novel with each song listed, as a taste of what's to come next May when the novel is published. We'll also make this playlist available on iTunes at some point, so readers can download the songs that appeal to them and follow Franny's life (and the novel) in song.

Most recordings are orginal to the era. Three I've snuck in there anachronistically, because I took some artistic license. Can you tell which ones?

What is the soundtrack of your young life? List it, in your notebook, download it, sing it, act it out, dig up photos of that time and remember how that soundtrack defined you then... defines you now.

If you were 11 years old in 1962, your playlist might look something like this:

1. You'll Never Walk Alone from Carousel by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein, sung by Shirley Jones in the 1956 film version.

I am eleven years old and I am invisible.

2. How the West Was Won (Main Title) from the film of the same name, soundtrack by Alfred Newman 1962. John Wayne played General William Tecumseh Sherman.

He's standing with his big hands on his hips like he's John Wayne in a cowboy movie, saying Don't worry, ma'am, it's just a coyote

3. I'm Just Wild about Harry by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle sung by Ethel Smith (and Eubie). Harry Truman chose this as his campaign song.

From Biography 1: He had dreamed of being a great soldier when he was a boy and suddenly he had a chance, because in 1917, America began fighting in a war in Europe.

4. Happy Birthday Mr. President vocal by Marilyn Monroe, spoken word by John F. Kennedy.

"Gale's going to be Marilyn Monroe for Halloween," says Margie.

5. Jose the Astronaut by Bill Dana

Drew interrupts. "I'm going to be an astronaut!"

6. Where Have all the Flowers Gone? c. 1961 by Pete Seeger and Joe Hickerson adapted from an old Ukranian folk tune, sung here by Peter, Paul and Mary.

Heavens to Murgatroid, Uncle Otts.

7. In Flanders Fields written by Lt. Col John McCrea, read by Anthony Davies.

Nothing's wrong with him! I want to scream, but that's not true.

8. Que Sera Sera by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans sung by Doris Day from The Man Who Knew Too Much 1956.

Mom is wearing her party apron at the sink. "Where have you been?" she asks in her Spanish Inquisition voice. Mom used to sing when she washed the dishes. Not anymore.

9. Somewhere by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim sung by Jimmy Bryan and Marni Nixon in the film West Side Story 1962.

Jo Ellen cried when she took me to the movies and we saw West Side Story, but she's not a crier by nature.

10. Johnny's Theme (The Tonight Show) written by Paul Anka, performed by Doc Severensen and the NBC Tonight Show Orchestra.

They talk about things I can't understand and I fall asleep to the sounds of my parents shutting up the house and listening to The Tonight Show on their black-and-white television in their bedroom, which is next to my bedroom.

11. Solidarity Forever written in 1915 by Ralph Chaplin, sung by Pete Seeger.

From Biography 2: Pete loved their songs -- Solidarity Forever! -- and he liked their ideas. He signed on to do whatever he could to help the workers of the world. He wasn't a worker yet, so he couldn't be a Wobbly; he became a member of the Young Communists.

12. Guantanamera music attributed to Jose Fernandez Diaz, lyrics from a poem by Cuban national hero Jose Marti, sung by Pete Seeger. Cuba's best known, most beloved patriotic song.

From Biography 2: And all the while, Pete scratched down the songs he heard, collecting them. Singing them. Recording them. Sharing them. Bringing people together in song.

13. Johnny Angel by Lyn Duddy and Lee Pockriss, sung by Shelley Fabares, number 1 on the Billboard pop charts April 17, 1962. Stayed in the Top 100 for 15 weeks.

Jo Ellen has the world's best 45-rpm record collection.

14. Side by Side by Harry MacGregor Woods sung by the Mitch Miller Singers on Sing Along with Mitch 1961-1964. Mitch Miller is still living at this writing and is 97 years old.

I forgot to sweep the kitchen floor and Mom had a few choice words to say when she came downstairs to find me following the bouncing ball with Daddy and Mitch Miller, singing "Side by Side."

15. Stars and Stripes Forever composed by John Philip Sousa performed by the Boston Pops.

Before I can even sit up, "Stars and Stripes Forever" blasts me out of bed.

16. Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill, American folk/work song composed in 1888 by Charles Connolly and Thomas Casey, sung by The Galliards.

"He looks fine," I insist, But he doesn't. He looks like the workers do in that song we're learning in music, "Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill."

17. I Am The Greatest written and performed by Cassius Marsellus Clay.

From Scrapbook 2: Sonny Liston KOs Floyd Patterson in round one to claim the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World! - September 25, 1962.

18. James Bond Theme by Monte Norman, performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic, arranged in 1962 for the first James Bond film, Dr. No, starring Sean Connery.

Uncle Otts drops his voice and speaks in secretive tones. "There's spies among us -- everybody knows this. We don't know who we can trust."

19. Green Onions written and performed by Booker T. and the MGs (Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Lewis Steinberg, Al Jackson, Jr.), entered the Billboard Top 100 in September 1962 and stayed there for 16 weeks peaking at number 3.

"What's that record?" I ask.
"Green Onions," she says. "Do you like it?"
"It's weird."

20. The Air Force Song by Captain Robert MacArthur Crawford, performed by The United States Air Force Band.

We're in, just like that, because we've got a sticker on our car that proclaims: This is the car of Major Philip Chapman, Korean War veteran and now Chief of Safety of the 89th Sam Fox Squadron, the Squadron that Flies the President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy! This is the car of the Greatest Jet Pilot in the Air Force!

21. The Spinning Song by German Composer Albert Ellmenreich and appearing in John Thompson's Modern Course for the Piano, Third Grade Book.

Up and down the scales I go, over and over, louder and louder, and then I practice "The Spinning Song." It's too hard for me, but I want so much to play it. Everyone wants to play "The Spinning Song."

22. In The Garden composed in 1912 by C. Austin Miles, sung by Garrison Keillor and Meryl Streep in A Prairie Home Companion.

I start with my favorites, "In the Garden" and "Love Lifted Me," which is almost too hard for me.

23. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing written by Robert Robinson, sung by psalterbook.

Melodious sonnets and flaming tongues! I feel great!

24. When You Wish Upon A Star by Ned Washington and Leigh Harline, introduced in the 1940 Walt Disney film Pinocchio and used as the theme song for The Wonderful World of Disney until 1962.

Sometimes we eat TV dinners on TV trays on Sunday nights and watch TV, but it's too early for Disney so we eat at the kitchen table.

25. Camelot words and music by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederic Loewe, sung by Richard Burton in the original Broadway cast also starring Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet 1960.

From Biography 3: Jack and Jackie were full of pizzazz. They moved their two small children, Caroline and John-John, into the White House with them, and soon there was a pony on the White House lawn, and a tree house, and a swimming pool, and two children jumping in the Oval Office, playing with their father, while a photographer from Life Magazine took picture after picture for all America to see.

26. Runaway by Del Shannon and Max Crooks, a Billboard Hot 100 number 1 hit on the pop charts in 1961.

"Johnny Angel" has a yellow label, "Twistin' the Night Away" has a tiny scratch at the beginning edge, and "Runaway," which is my current favorite, by my favorite singer, Del Shannon, has a heart drawn on the label -- by me. Jo Ellen doesn't know this yet.

27. October 22, 1962 speech to the American people (excerpt) by President John F. Kennedy about the discovery of armed offensive Russian missiles in Cuba.

I'd better wrap up everything while I have a chance. I crawl out of bed and get on my knees.

28. Duck and Cover. "This is a Civil Defense Film" (excerpt) by Archer Productions for the United States Government's branch of Civil Defense.

When the film sputters off and the lights go on, there is not a sound in the room. Not even a chair scrape. We are all officially scared to death, but we are going to go on with our lives because Mr. Mitchell tells us to.

29. Brassman's Holiday composed and performed by Arturo Sandoval, who was born in Havana in 1949 and defected to the United States in 1990.

Mrs. Rodriguez takes her metal pointer out of her desk drawer, extends it to its longest length, and slaps at the map, just under the state of Florida. "This," she says, and we all look at where the red tip has landed, "is Cuba."

30. A Summer Place by Mack Discant and Max Steiner, from the 1959 film of the same name, performed by the Percy Faith Orchestra.

She retracts her pointer, comes to the front of her desk, and leans against it. "Cuba is a beautiful country, full of beautiful people. Let me tell you about it."

31. Over There written by George M. Cohan, sung by Arthur Fields 1917.

I say it slowly, in a whisper, like a prayer. "What happened to him?"
Uncle Otts takes the picture from me like it's a baby and gently puts it back on his nightstand. "I killed him," he says simply.

32. The Loco-Motion by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, a number one Billboard hit recorded by Little Eva in 1962.

It's time to take matters into my own hands, that's all there is to it. Either that, or I'm going to have to go crazy with the rest of them.

33. Chain Gang written and recorded by Sam Cooke in 1960. The song hit number 2 on both the pop and R&B charts.

That's the sound of the men (and Franny) working on the chain gang.

34. Are You Lonesome Tonight? written in 1926 by Lou Handman and Roy Turk, recorded by Elvis Presley in 1960. It stayed at number 1 on the Billboard pop chart for six weeks.

Come home, Jo Ellen! Fall in love with me, Chris!

35. Hit the Road, Jack a Billboard number 1 hit written by Percy Mayfield and recorded in 1961 by Ray Charles.

Hit the road, Franny! And don't you come back no more.

36. We Shall Overcome excerpt from a speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr. "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice." The song was written by Rev. Charles Tindley in 1908. Additional lyrics are copyrighted by Pete Seeger, Zilphia Horton, Guy Carawan and Frank Hamilton. All proceeds go to the "We Shall Overcome Fund" at Highlander School.

From Biography 4: The Delta land was as flat as a door as far as the eye could see. Every now and then, a tree grew in the middle of a field, like a scarecrow with eight or ten limbs, like arms, akimbo. "Hangin' trees," the sharecropper families called them.

37. This Little Light of Mine written by Harry Dixon Loes, sung by the Freedom Singers.

From Biography 4: "Find the lady who sings the hymns," said Bob Moses. The civil rights movement became her home.

38. In the Hall of the Mountain King from Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46 by Edvard Grieg, performed by the Berliner Philharmonic Orchestra.

Miss Farrell played "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from the Peer Gynt Suite -- I'm asking for it for Christmas. It's my favorite classical record and Miss Farrell knows it.

39. When the Red-Red Robin Come Bob-Bob-Bobbin' Along written by Harry Woods, sung by Bing Crosby and Al Jolson.

In Glee Club we're working on "When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob-Bob-Bobbin' along," and the alto part is sensational. I sing it all by myself in the bathtub at night.

40. Do You Love Me? (Now That I Can Dance) written by Berry Gordy and recorded by the Contours. The song charted in the Top 40 in 1962.

"Come on, Franny! Do what I do -- and sing after me! Watch me now!"

41. Moon River written by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini, sung by Audrey Hepburn in the film Breakfast at Tiffany's in 1961.

"I know. Thank you for letting me go, Jo Ellen. I promise I'll be back early."
And with those words, I begin the longest night of my life.

42. Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini written by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss, recorded by Brian Hyland in 1960. It reached number 1 on the Billboard pop chart and sold over 2 million copies.

There are kids inside -- lots of kids. I feel like the lion in The Wizard of Oz: I'd turn back if I were you.

43. The Monster Mash written by Bobby Pickett and Lenny Capizzi, sung by Bobby "Boris" Pickett and his Crypt-Kickers. The song went to number 1 in October 1962, in time for Halloween.

Even Judy James sings, and I don't care. What I care about is that I'm in the circle.

44. Please Mr. Postman written by William Garrett, Brian Holland, Robert Bateman, and Freddie Gorman, recorded in late 1961 by the Marvelettes. The first Motown song to hit number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It hit number 1 on the R&B chart as well.

I croon to the ceiling, right along with the Marvelettes and my friends. When the record ends, we keep on singing until we realize how bad we sound without the Marvelettes, which makes us laugh - oh it feels fine.

45. Night Train written by Oscar Washington, Lewis P. Simpkins, and Jimmy Forrest, recorded in 1962 by James Brown and his Famous Flames. The song reached number 5 on the Billboard R&B charts and number 35 on the pop charts.

All I can do is hang on for dear life.

46. Wonderful World written by Sam Cooke, Herb Alpert and Lou Adler, sung by Sam Cooke. The song reached number 12 on the Billboard pop charts.

Chris appears, still in his Superman costume. I brought help, his lips say, but I don't hear him. I telegraph him the question: Is this what happens when you die? He doesn't answer me.

47. I Vow to Thee, My Country from a poem by Cecil Spring-Rice, music adapted by Gustav Holst from a section of "Jupiter" from his suite The Planets, this beloved song has been sung at Armistice Day ceremonies as a response to the human cost of World War I.

"All right, troops!" says Uncle Otts, waving the back of his hand in their direction. "Time to fall out! Time to move on!"
Chris clears his throat. "Sir?"
"Private?" replies Uncle Otts.

48. Telstar written by Joe Meek, recorded in 1962 by the Tornadoes. Telstar was the first single by a British band to reach number 1 on the Billboard top 100 pop chart.

And, while Uncle Otts ties a snug knot, it comes to me that I will go on to grow up now -- I feel it. I will grow old, like Uncle Otts, with all kinds of stories to tell, all kinds of days to remember, all kinds of moments I will live, and choices I will make.

What do you think?

right under your nose

I used my camera as my notebook this holiday weekend and here's some of what I photographed, along with my cryptic notes.

A little pickin' and practicin'. My right index and middle finger are "cut" by my banjo strings. Moral: wear your picks, Deb.
Hannah's homemade peach pie. She is the baker of the family.
After an absence of two months, Cleebo came back, still wearing his collar, still ready to shred the furniture, and still living with wanderlust. He's out again this morning. Sigh.
Bringing the outside in. Thanks again for the lovely bud vase, Clopper Mill Elementary School. Still at war with the whiteflies.
Ruby Lavender root beer floats. Barq's root beer and Bluebell ice cream. Photograph by Hannah.
Gathering together for pot luck and music. Part of my Atlanta family.
My favorite 35-year-old at work.
Moving the tomatoes to a place they might finally thrive (this is probably a pipe dream, but we like tilting at windmills around here):
Elvis Andy Bebop, playing with Jim who is wilting. It's 100 degrees outside.
And Gus knows it. Lazing on the basket of garden gloves:
Stories, stories, stories! This weekend's experiences contained enough drama, tension, laughter, relief, guilt, redemption and generosity to fill a book. Kids ask me where I get my ideas and I tell them, it's all right there, right under your nose, in your very own life: the stuff of story.

It's a matter of getting used to seeing your life as a story, and you can do that. Practice, practice. Keep a notebook. A sketch book. Photographs. Write songs, write plays, put together puzzles, invent something brand new: Be a witness to your life.

Hope your weekend was a good one.

Tomorrow: the playlist for The End of the Rope.