We shared a Rogues’ Gallery of photos with you Monday–the creative folks who have made OLLI Connects’ first year possible. For today’s issue, we’ve chosen snippets of their writing and photography that we think are representative of our overal group of contributors. Each brief snippet links back to the full work. Enjoy! –Editor
We are the first tourists to arrive at the safari venue. The sun is painfully bright and, as we stand squinting at the enormous herd of camels, it is difficult to distinguish one animal from another. They are lumpy heaps in the desert separated from the sand by the bright Indian cloth covers of their saddles.
At first we see only the camels; then the figures of the men squatting beside their charges and dwarfed by the camel’s humps come into focus. Two young boys jump up from the shadows and approach us. I assume that they are the safari owner’s sons who have been sent to greet customers. The smaller boy approaches me, points at the herd and says, “Two camels here, Madam—you pick one.”
I look at the two camels he has indicated and assess the material covering the saddle of the further of the two animals. The cloth is rich and vivid, crafted in the brilliant hues of Rajastani fabrics, a mixture of jewel-bright reds, blues and greens. The alternate camel has a saddle cloth of red, bordered with purple and blue. It’s also lovely, but really it’s just not me somehow. I choose the furthest camel. I realize that I have just selected my camel based solely on the basis of a color scheme that looks good on a camel and might possibly look good on me. How else can I choose? All I know about camels is that they have four legs, a hump, terrifying teeth, and are reputedly foul-tempered, and thus I make my choice based on a fashion whim.
–Joyce Carpenter Rocket in the Desert
No matter the time of year, Portlanders go to Washington Park for hiking. This popular urban park in Portland’s western hills is home to forest trails where people can spot Douglas Fir and Vine Maple trees. The winter is uniquely beautiful, with tree branches draped with bright green moss glistening with moisture. Emerging from the fog, giant fern fronds rise up from the forest floor.
When I hiked in winter, I would get the feeling that I was no longer in the 21st century but back in the Jurassic period, sharing the forest and ferns with the dinosaurs. The vibrant green of the forest, along with time-traveling fantasies, are the reward for having countless damp and cloudy days.
–Amy Smetana Oregon: a Geographic Kaleidoscope
The concept of the Great Books has drawn criticism since its inception—for one thing, there were mostly dead white guys in the original list—and it’s been revisited and revised dozens of times over the decades. But the basic message remains the same: Put down that Danielle Steel novel, square your shoulders, and tackle something WORTHWHILE.
Inspired by my new membership in OLLI, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at an Adler list. The books he selected have appeared on many an academic curriculum over time, but it’s seeing them all laid out as a giant “to-do” list that makes a person blanch, especially when coming across entries like: “Archimedes–works,” “Aristotle—works,” “Honoré Balzac—works,” “Horace–works,” “John Milton– works,” “Ovid works,” “Shakespeare—works.”
Robert Strozier Great Books. No!
Fortunately, some of the sailors had their ship’s name on their sleeves, so when we got to that ship, we would help them to the ladders and the ship would send down guys to hoist them aboard. Once in a while, the officer of the deck would think he recognized someone else, and we would tilt his face up so the ship could put a spotlight on him. If the watch officer said he was theirs, we would hoist him up. At each stop, if a sailor said he belonged on board that ship, we let him go.
This process went on until Joe and I were the last ones left, and the Wilson was the last ship to be serviced. We clambered aboard. The petty officer of the watch took one look at—and one whiff of—us, held his nose and said, “That will teach you dumbass rookie swabs not to take the last liberty boat.”
—David Campbell The Last Liberty Boat
She holds my hand in the pulse pose,
forces me to read poetry to her.
She checks my breathing, stethoscope
cold on my back like the barrel of a pistol—
she confesses that if she had not become
a physician, she would have been a poet.
One poem from our post Taking Life by the Throat
Rarely did couples walk together in Tbilisi. Teenage girls walked arm-in-arm and giggled over pastries in the confectionary shops. Young adult women gossiped with friends while they did housework and cared for their youngsters. During workdays, their husbands drank toasts of wine, champagne and Georgian vodka. Tbilisi restaurants were filled mainly with male friends who toasted to friendship, recited poetry, and sang Georgian folk songs.
Georgian society had a double standard, like societies in many Mediterranean countries. A strict taboo prohibited Georgian men and women from becoming intimate before marriage. If a Georgian father suspected his daughter of breaking this taboo, he forced a wedding to take place immediately. Manana, a 19-year-old university student, complained that her father demanded that they share a hotel room when she visited her boyfriend. Manana’s father could monitor her activities more easily.
Georgian women were expected to be chaste before the wedding and to remain faithful afterward. Typical Georgian men, with dark hair and flashing black eyes, were notorious philanderers with women of other nationalities. Russian women often traveled to Georgia to have affairs with Georgian men. As a result, one Georgian acquaintance refused to allow his Russian wife to walk alone on Tbilisi streets.
–Diane Russell Soviet Women of the Brezhnev Era
Don Sergio is tall, wears jeans, a plaid shirt, a sleeveless fleece vest and a baseball cap. His teeth clamp a cigar. His eyes are dark and shrewd; he reminds me of Paul Schofield in his later years. In his casual, universal garb, he looks distinguished; you get an inkling of power and money, but it’s subtle. This is a sophisticated man, a man at home in the world—anywhere from Brazil to Minneapolis to Orkney.
He speaks fluent, heavily accented English and his manner is warm, not effusive. He is encantado to meet me, and when he takes my hand I half expect he’s going to kiss it, but he doesn’t. I realize I’m somehow falling into a quasi-deferential manner. That’s the effect he has.
–Brenda Tipps Dry Ranch
We were on the flight path between Germany and the important port cities of Liverpool and Manchester. Every night, air raid sirens warned us that the attack was on its way.
I usually got up, dressed and slept on the bed until 4 AM when the all-clear siren sounded and we knew that the attackers were returning. Sometimes they would attack industrial targets in our area. The sky was illuminated with magnesium flares and we experienced the pyrotechnic displays associated with bombing attacks. We fled to the shelters when bombs were close, but for the most part, it was a war of nerves. Further west it was very real, and my relatives in Liverpool were “bombed out” and had to come and live with us.
–Jack Plimmer England 1940 – 1945
David M. Bader takes this traditional form and turns it on its head. Yes, the syllables remain the same for each line; however, his haiku’s purpose is to condense a so-called “great book” (from authors A to Z) for, it must be said, “laughs.” A book review from the New York Post sums it up best: “War and Peace it’s not. It’s much funnier.” Customer reviews on Amazon.com range from “fluff reading” to “absurd” to “hilarious” and “clever.” You will soon decide your own opinion of this book.
My first example is a book that most of you, being OLLI members, may have read or may have seen on TV: Charles Dickens’ Bleak House:
Fog, gloom, men in wigs –
the Chancery Court blights all.
See where law school leads?
We get the essence of Dickens’s book: the fog and gloom of London that permeates everything and everyone, and the devastating results that the court’s actions have on all persons involved in the complex, labyrinthine Jarndyce and Jarndyce lawsuit. What the haiku leaves out, though, is the rather confusing and long narrative. However, as this is generally considered one of Dickens’ best books, perhaps it will spur you into actually reading it. Or not.
–Cindy Knox Haikus as Book Reviews
One of the phrases people of a certain age have imprinted on their memory was not spoken by Charles Boyer in the movie “Algiers,” which he made in 1938 with Hedy Lamarr, although comedians continued uttering it in a bad French accent for years afterward. “Come wiz me to ze Casbah” was probably most famously spoken at the movies by Bugs Bunny. “Algiers” was an American remake, down to some of the same camera angles, of the 1937 “Pépé le Moko,” starring the French film icon, Jean Gabin.
With scenes of those movies in my mind’s eye, I set foot in the Casbah in Tangier in April.
–Shelly Belzer Come Wiz Me to ze Casbah!
I pull my yellow slicker tighter around me as I edge back into the rain and head for town. It’s early May. Two months from now on any rainy afternoon, the narrow streets of Wellfleet, lined with Victorian houses that resemble someone’s dotty old aunties, will be crowded with beach-deprived shoppers taking in the galleries.
I know where to head: The Left Bank Gallery. This barn-ceilinged former VFW Hall houses what is, in many ways, the personal collection of Audrey Parent, whose gifted eye recognizes and assembles not only some of the best works of art in the country but fine examples of art that also plays well with others. Here almost photographic oils by Jim Holland and revisionist landscapes by newer artists are deliberately hung above hand-crafted inlaid tables and chairs to underscore that art is meant to be lived and life itself can be an art when you let it in.
–Judy Huge Cape Cod Secrets