Steve Meador is the author of Throwing Percy from the Cherry Tree, a poetry book that was an entrant for a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He is widely published in online and print journals. He has been a real estate broker since the early 1980s and currently lives and practices in the Tampa, FL, area.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What do you see in this photograph I took in 1976? Take a minute before reading and give it some thought, then read about what I see.

To some it was simply a roll of wax paper that had miraculously plopped out of a brown paper grocery bag--or maybe it even jumped out, knowing its fate was to cover casseroles, stews, beets, beans and whatnot--and then bounced out of the back of some beat-up, rusted-out pickup truck on the ride home from the market. Perhaps the roll was hoping to be unwound, detached from its cardboard core and given a glimmer of chance to live, an opportunity to be lifted by a rogue gust, carried above the treetops to float to the place where wax paper is free. Then, the girls happened, and to them everything, through youthful naiveté, deserved a chance. So they picked up the unopened box and collected bunches of sweet fall leaves in reds, yellows, browns, some speckled, still, with summer green. They introduced the leaves to the wax paper, via their mother’s hot iron. The girls tacked many of the shiny leaves on their bedroom wall, so they could enjoy the wonder of the trees throughout winter. Others were sold for a penny a piece. The money converted to Mallo Cups at the candy counter. The leaves breathed relief, their self-destruction put on permanent hold, but the wax paper, with its soul transferred, was not just happy, it was ecstatic.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Today I felt like taking a walk for the first time since having my shoulders manipulated. There is still throbbing and soreness, but the warm of the late afternoon was too persuasive in its beckoning. I think the few pills I have taken for the pain made me edgy and restless, so I needed the energy expenditure. 

 There has been a big change in the color, since the freeze a couple weeks ago. It's nothing like the fall in other parts of the country, but exciting for us in Florida. Green gets old and boring. A hundred shades of green also grow boring. The sun had fallen below the treetops; light pushed through the oaks and longleaf pines, drifted past the bare limbs of the deciduous trees and placed soft emphasis on the color. So, I wrote myself a prescription for one hour of nature, for pain and mental relief. Worked great.  

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Comments from readers

I think everyone would agree that it is good to make money from our efforts in life, whether work or hobby. It is, however, a rare thing to happen in writing, but one sticks with it in hopes that the big payoff will happen someday. Along the way, a few dollars dribble in, but they are often less meaningful than the words of readers. I receive lots of messages from people, virtually all positive and backslappy, but some really stand out.  Here are a couple. The first is from a guy who read Percy.

Hi Steve: 

Received the books Monday and finished them last night. This morning feels like I'm back from a trip. Don't want to say much about them, but like all good writing, the poems are a testimonial to the importance of life - even what seems like minor events, maybe especially the minor things. Two of my favorites were Pecking Order and Cape of Burden.

The coffee I brewed this morning's a bit nasty. I always buy the cheapest brand and know that if I can get the concentration just right, it's as good as the high-end stuff, but it's a narrow target. I'm thinking if Meador was here, he'd know what to do.

The second is from a woman who follows my photography and writing posts on facebook.

just have to say, i picture your ride's trunk having an old wooden divided crate full of an assortment of empty brewski bottles, another small antique trunk full of (stuff my g'ma had in her attic in Arkansas...) ...or maybe just filled with a miscellaneous of magical items such as oil lamps, peacock feathers, small tin buckets...a ziploc bag of nails and screws and one of those handy dandy Craftsmen 100 in 1 rechargeable handyman tools...a few small faded cans of paint and some of those foam brushes for quick presto-change-o...more than likely an assortment of coffee cup wraps with 'just the right' quote for the old wooden chair with layers and layers of different colored paints and 4 different height legs...because it's been used in so many different locations and landscapes...New Orleans swamplands, Key Largo...maybe the everglades, bay harbor... near Petoskey, MI, in the snow at Canoe Point on the way to Bar Harbor, ME, somewhere in a western us desert sand..., the sand at Indian Rock Beach...very suitable no matter where, partly because you have just the right cans and colors of paints to help, along the way...or partly because you have directed your attention so completely on your always find a perfect shot of the day to fill one empty spot in your puzzle of that tomorrow will always be fresh and new...yet full of statement. oh yeah, and one or two discarded camera lenses that can no longer fulfill a need...replaced by a much better one picked up for a really great price at a road side sale, or a going out of business camera store that just couldn't withstand the present economy...or maybe just 'i can get such an awesome few shots with no special attachments or extra lenses' because you have such an eye for that kind of thing...and ...really, no coffee cup wraps at all...because you have a way with words and a passion for...expression and creativity...

how bout doing a 'trunk study' ... Steve, thanks for sharing!

Thanks Pam and John. Makes every tap of the keyboard and click of the shutter worthwhile!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Frozen shoulders

My shoulders are not working. I have bilateral frozen shoulder.  When I lift my arms up from each side they get to a certain point, which is less than 90 degrees, then there comes the burn of 1000 bee stings and the muscles lock into position for several seconds. The pain in the joint makes me think of the movie Alien, like something is trying to rip through my skin and escape. All I want is for my shoulders to once again be my body’s cranes, to lift and move as though operated by a set of precision hydraulics, to flow with liquid motion and without pain.

I visit Beulah at her leaning clapboard shanty. She knows how to make things work better and, after listening, disappears behind a filthy, red, wool blanket that hangs over the doorway behind her. She returns with a bag, tells me, “Pour this into bath water that is just below the point of cooking you and soak, soak your whole self, soak yourself until the water chills.”

 Once home, I go directly to the bath, hunch over the tub, sprinkle the contents into the stream of steaming water and watch it dissolve. I am not familiar with the aroma that throws itself at my face, but it is pleasant, flowery, yet a bit of sourness, easy to inhale. After a couple minutes of watching and listening, the faucet seems to release a waterfall; a weak, almost sinister laugh gurgles from my throat as the tub becomes my cauldron. I kneel down and swirl the hot mixture, then slowly climb in.

The hot wraps around me, pulls and sinks me to the middle of my neck. Soon, I am on a mountain top with Sister Maria, we are singing, dancing, running, our arms waving in silken flight. My shoulders roll and flow, my arms rise and fall in smooth undulation.

Maria is tireless. She turns and runs in the other direction. From behind a large granite boulder, Beulah appears and gives me a couple green tablets, “Take this goat weed, the nun is not pure.” Her hand and body evaporate as the offering drops into my palm. The day is short, I hurry after Maria and our play continues until we fall on the thick, soft green of the meadow. She begins to tell me about edelweiss, and how it grows in locations that are often dangerous to reach, along the rocky edges of mountains. She says if I could pick some for her, it would prove my love. Her voice is a harp, sends sleep to me from its soft curves.

When I wake I am in the desert, coughing hot wind, blowing dust out of my mouth, my cheeks stuck to my teeth. A few yards in front of me is a pool of water. I claw my way over the sand and fall in. The water is cool and fragrant, sweet, sour.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

One of the things I really enjoy is creating a brief story about the photos I take. These range from total fabrication to complete truth. It is the in-between that is the best. Here is a pic and paragraph that is an in-between. Thankfully, the pitbull was on a sturdy chain!

A few feet off the sidewalk and continuing to the back left corner of the bungalow was a thicket of crotons. Twisted and curly, they grew to an extraordinary height of about four feet. The intense colors--yellow, red, purple, green and mixtures of each--pulled the eye to the growth’s midpoint, so the Spanish moss, dripping oak branches and yellowing sky that teetered above the crotons seemed only silly adornments. The leaves were veined and textured and calling to be touched, to have their thickness measured by a gentle rub and squeeze between the index finger and thumb.  But, as often happens, beauty dulls the senses, other than sight. That often leads to lost caution and blind entry into a land of risky adventure.

Friday, December 10, 2010

.22 Caliber Long Rifle

I mentioned earlier (Oct. 29 post) that I hunted and trapped with my cousin, during the first two years of high school.We killed lots of animals. At the time, our veins full of male teenage flux and vinegar, it seemed the natural thing to do. We were, after all, top of the food chain and everything beneath lived at our discretion. I recall one time we were hunting squirrels and having no luck. The biggest problem was the red-headed woodpeckers. It is a noisy, raucous bird, a kind of sentry for the forest. Everywhere we walked they began a raspy squawking. To us it was annoying, to the rest of the wildlife in the woods it was a warning. After a couple hours our attention was diverted to the birds and we unloaded our guns over the next hour, until nearly 30 were killed. We were not impacted emotionally, at the time, it was just the thing to do for revenge. We stacked them into a large pile, like a stack of wood to burn, and admired our marksmanship.

I have thought about that afternoon for years. That day, along with all the other slaughter, has turned me into a man who cannot kill an earwig as it scurries across the family room floor. It gets a free trip to the nearest porch. I try to save any and every living thing I can. The woodpeckers deserve a few words, and here is another poem, which was also published, to say I regret my actions:

.22 Caliber Long Rifle

In a way it was the Wounded Knee
of 3 Acre Woods, only there was a bed
of colored leaves instead of snow and our
dead was not grotesque, but lined up
in a row.  The twenty seven red-headed
woodpeckers had not feared us.

Limestone in the creek, beyond a maze
of rotting trunks, gurgled and hissed beneath
rapid water, called for a return to sanity.
“Pretend I am flint in a flammable pool, cast
your rust upon me. I will ignite and deliver
your last sins in a scroll of flames.”

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Paco the dog

“He wasn’t much when she brought him home. About the size of a sweet potato. About the same amount of hair, too.”
The chihuahua climbed onto my lap.
“He likes you. Don’t even like people he knows, usually. You got a dog?”
 I took a few seconds, “No, sir, mine died.  I don’t think I could go through that again. I just get my fill when I am out and around.” 
He pulled some oranges off the tree behind the bench and handed me a couple.
“A little dog like that ain’t much account around a farm. You sit there and fill your tank with him.”
For the next couple minutes each of our thoughts unfolded privately, until the old farmer spoke, “Twice isn’t always good. He’s old. My wife’s dog, really. I suppose I’ll get to lose her a second time soon.”
Paco shivered beneath the stroke of my fingers, as we built small piles of orange peel at our feet.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Advice To Teachers

Advice To Teachers

There are certain things which you cannot discuss
in front of a class of sixth graders. The sperm whale
garners a giggle, whether it is navigating the open
ocean far from the land of the platypus and wombat,
or near icebergs where fairy penguins reside.

Never preface the ornithology section of the book
with, “Class, I would like to give you the bird.”
And do not introduce the spotted redshank on the same
day as the woodcock. Woodpeckers can be touch and go,
particularly the hairy or the red-cockaded. The eastern

wood peewee and the buff-breasted sandpiper will draw
sniggers from the males in the back of the room. Brown
boobies will bring a flush to every female cheek. Chaos
comes when the tufted titmouse is mentioned, especially
if one can be found perched in a pussy willow. Steer clear

of stag beetles, if possible, and beavers completely. Horny
toads are thorny issues, jackasses no easier than the Asiatic
wild ass or the dik-dik. Even chickens can be taboo when
the cocks are Jersey Giants or Rhode Island Reds. Above
all, try to make no reference to anything regarding Uranus.