The Goat

Author Vicki Peterson is allowing us to preview here a story that she will submit to the Pen Women national magazine for publication in the coming months. It’s a delightful reminiscence that explains why, should anyone require an explanation, Victoria Stoddard Peterson does not like chèvre. 

 
Isn’t it remarkable how one smell can bring back so many memories?
 
 
I’m not sure why Daddy brought the damn goat to the farm to begin with. Goats— they are not the most pleasant looking creatures, and they do have that peculiar scent. I was only four, but I remember it like it was yesterday. It turns out that the goat was a perfect metaphor for my father—strong-minded with a singleness of purpose. That purpose was to do what pleased him—my father, and the goat!
 
My mother hated that goat, and she came to hate the farm. They had come to the farm at the end of the war for a more serene and ordinary life. Daddy’s best friend in the war told him that his father was looking for someone to manage a small farm in Virginia. My dad had been a B25 tail gunner, the worst possible position. He had witnessed unspeakable horrors that he would live with for the rest of his life. After the trauma of the war, he and my mother wanted to find some peace, to have a sense of accomplishment, to feel connected to something.
 
After the depression years and five years of world war, they just wanted to live a normal life. They felt that a connection to the earth would accomplish this. Believing that the scarcity of war would lead to the demand for fresh produce— watermelons, cantaloupes, corn—they saw their way to a new beginning. My mother had lived in cities all her life, and she just wanted to be a farm girl. She had the romantic notion of lush green fields, a beautiful garden, a charming farmhouse with a wrap-around porch.
 
What they encountered was far from that—a run-down, neglected, overgrown, non-descript farmhouse in the middle of a dusty field at the end of a long dirt road that turned into mud whenever it rained. Mother and Daddy worked determinedly to turn that farm into a place they could be proud of. With little disposable income and little help, they built a corduroy road; even though it was rough, it was an improvement over the often impassable previous one. They worked tirelessly to turn the farmhouse into a home. Daddy plowed the dusty fields and planted crops, he packed his truck with beautiful fresh produce and drove North, where the money was.
 
It wasn’t long until my mother found out she was pregnant with me. This slowed things down considerably. My father was working incredibly long days, often traveling miles to deliver the produce, struggling to make ends meet. My mother was alone, really alone, with a crying, premature, newborn baby who refused to eat.  It was at this point that things began to go downhill. My mother was overwhelmed, as was my father. Mother began to hate the farm. I know this because she wrote long, mournful letters to my father’s sister questioning if this were the way things would always be. My father would return home from his long trips only to go to the neighbor’s farm for some “relaxation.” He had always been a party boy. Everyone loved him, and he loved being with everyone. The demons of war began to catch up with him; drink became his best friend.
 
My early memories of the farm began when I was about four. The warmth of the wood-burning stove crackling with life. The smooth sides of the wood box in the corner of the kitchen that I loved to climb into. The velvety feel of the wood floors in the living room and the subtle aroma of furniture polish throughout. I relish the memory of the light coming in through the back door, the resinous scent of the boxwood bushes on a summer afternoon, the beautiful, peaceful river in the distance, and the sound of the tractors in the field. I loved walking with the dogs through the woods to the nearby farm, where I was rewarded with pancakes smothered in blackberry jam and dripping with freshly churned butter.
 
My favorite place was the old barn with the earthen floor that captured the rays of the sun as she peaked through the cracks in the walls, the creaky steps leading to the hayloft, and the sweet dark rich smell of the straw. I treasured the rough wood of the stall and the soft nuzzle of our horse, Jack.
 
And then came the GOAT. I am not sure what possessed Daddy to bring that goat home; maybe he had won it in a card game, perhaps it was a gift. I don’t know. What I do know is that it was the beginning of the end of the farm. Mother was outraged. That was my first memory of my parents fighting. My father wanted that goat, and my mother didn’t, and he would stop at nothing to keep it. He refused to return it. With me in the front, my mother tossed the goat in the back of the old Woody, and we drove it back to its original owner, that nasty goat kicking and bleating the whole way. The next morning the goat was back, and then that stinky,  mean, no-good goat chased me all the way down to the river. I was petrified; my mother was furious. Back into the Woody we went. This back and forth went on for three days. Each time, my mother tossed the goat in the back of the old Woody with me in the front and the foul-smelling, putrid goat thrusting and moaning louder and louder every mile that we went.
 
Then there was the ultimatum. The goat, or my mother and me. My strong-minded, stubborn father could not bring himself to give up the goat. With that, my mother packed up the old Woody once again—not with the goat, but with suitcases. This time to return to the North—not with watermelons, cantaloupes, or corn, but with me. It was the end of the farm and our life on the farm.
 
My father finally did return the goat, but my mother and I never returned to the farm. They had discovered farm life was not for them.  Eventually, my father, my mother, and I moved to a charming home in a small town with lush green grass, beautiful flowers, and a wrap-around porch.
 
It wasn’t until years later that I thought of that damned goat. My first taste of goat cheese brought all those memories flooding back. That smelly, mean, nasty goat is forever etched in my mind.
 
Isn’t it remarkable how one smell can bring back so many memories?

Moody River Estates Book Club ZOOMS in on Marta Elva

Marta Elva Gibbons, author of American Tumbleweeds, a Sarton Women’s Book Award Finalist, was hosted last month by the North Fort Myers Moody River Estates Book Club. She reports on the event as follows.

The Moody River Estates Book Club Discusses American Tumbleweeds with Author Marta Elva

  Marta Elva at Barnes & Noble in San Antonio, TX – 2016

Everyone misses the person-to-person contact of yesteryear.  These days, corona virus mandates that events, meetings, etc., be “ZOOM-ed,” a new verb that sounds as distant and cold as the computer screens required to participate in this high-tech experience.

During my career, I made a point of working behind the camera. Why? Because the unblinking camera lens is relentless, scrutinizing imperfections up close and personal.

Fortunately, the women of the Moody River Estates Book Club put me at ease immediately. In June 2020, the ladies invited me to participate in a discussion of my novel, American Tumbleweeds, via ZOOM. Their warm-heartedness radiated through the screen; they clearly had spent time thoroughly reading my novel—a privilege I sincerely value.

I’m always fascinated by the unique interpretation each reader has of the same journey. There’s nothing more satisfying than a reader expressing concern for my characters as if discussing old friends. It lets me know readers discovered a part of themselves in the pages of my novel. A most gratifying reward for any writer. The ladies’ acute observations and abiding remarks nourished my soul for future projects. This was an inspiring conversation greatly needed during a period of isolation.

I still long for person-to-person readings, but the remote experience with the Moody River Estates Book Club provided a gratifying alternative. Thank you for your support, Ladies!

At Barnes & Noble in San Antonio, TX – 2016

Creative Confinement?

The Florida Watercolor Society recently challenged its members to submit artwork created during their Covid-19 pandemic confinement. Pen Woman, Cheryl A. Fausel, contributed two paintings to the sale—for a sale it is!

Yes. You can purchase any of these works of art for yourself, or as a gift for a loved one!

You know, the imagination cannot be confined. Nor can emotion. Artists, for instance, often produce their best work under duress. Artists are gifts of the gods, who, after all, gave us lemons in the full confidence that we would figure out how to make lemon martinis.

So lift your glass and let us celebrate our artists!

Want to purchase artwork?

All entries to the Creative Confinement Challenge are available for purchase! Please click the button to download the price list and purchase instructions. Have your eye on a piece? Don’t hesitate – they’re going fast!
Cheryl’s paintings are:

“Lemons on a Ledge.”

(What was I saying about lemons?)

and

“Matlacha Beauties”

Actually, #1 (8″ x 8″) is only one of a series of four. (See below.)
#2- 12″ x 12″
#3- 17″ x 17″
#4- 17″x 17″

#s 1 & 2 framed will be  24 x 24, while #s 3 & 4 are mounted on wooden cradles!

You will find Cheryl’s two entries among the artwork at the purchase link above. It’s like the fun of hunting for Easter eggs in a flower-filled meadow.

Enjoy.

The Whispering Heart

Marta Elva Gibbons contemplates “mayhem.”

Listen…to the Whisper of Your Heart

Writing in the time of corona virus is like meditating at a four-way stop sign,

Constant motion of emotion interrupted by the stop and go

Of politicians and everyday citizens championing wisdom and nonsense.

Confusion saturates sensations of the human mind – sight, sound and vision;

Only you can decide what’s right.

Nature calls outside my window, silently observing, as we rip each other apart –

The sanctity of silence, gone.

People arrive by boat determined to exercise their right to – PARTY!

On the road, traffic speeds by toward Pine Island,

Anxious drivers seeking justice for past atrocities of waiting in long traffic lines.

Nature warns us – its alarm ignored,

Rising death tolls preordained normal,

Human fragility mocked; dismissed by youthful arrogance and an ignorant government.

What to do when all our exits are blocked;

When voices scream, I can’t breathe – from hospital beds and city streets,

When the youth of America continues the struggle of a long, drawn out fight.

Listen…

Not to screaming voices of frustrated Americans and activists.

Listen…to the whisper of your heart;

It knows, you know –

Something is wrong, and only we, can restore the sacredness of humankind.

Marta Elva, July 2020

 

 

Sipping Sweetness

Lorraine Williams just sent in this wonderful news.
“My poem, ‘Hummingbird’ will be included in First Wave, the first Beach Bards Anthology in New Jersey.”
An excellent accomplishment, but not the first of its kind for Lorraine. “Last summer,” she admits, “I was the ‘Beach Bard’ for June.” This month last year, Lorraine was one of two featured poets at the Beach Bards Poetry and Prose Reading series in Sea Isle, NJ.
But that’s not all.
“My Poem, ‘One Morning,’ has been accepted for publication in the Tribute Anthology honoring Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the former Poet Laureate of San Francisco, who founded City Lights, an independent bookstore ahead of its time, which featured many of the Beat Poets and continues as a mecca for writers today.
“Personally, it’s kind of cool to have my work published on both coasts,” she says.
“Kinda cool” is not how I would describe this remarkable confluence of events. But then, I’m not a poet.
Here’s a delectable tidbit from “Hummingbird.”

Hummingbird swoops afternoon sky,

flits bloom to bloom on whirling wings,

sipping sweetness, pauses then flies.

And another from “One Morning”…

“Poetry is the sun streaming down…in the meshes of morning.”  Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Late September sun warms, as I  cross the street to City Lights Bookstore,

and climb stairs to the Poetry Room where I

plan to read and maybe buy a book or two,

As soon as the anthologies are published, we’ll let you know.