I grew up with beloved stories, books and songs of rhyme and reason, and silly nonsense..
Each day I move forward in my determination to heal from a femur fracture on July 10th 2019 I’m reminded of the human with strange egg-like qualities — Humpty Dumpty who also toppled from a great height and cracked the perfect outer shell.
Because of my broken leg, I’ve had time to think and rethink my true purpose in life. Lucky me! No time to ask WHY ME? Instead I ask WHY NOT ME? What can I learn from this adventure / misadventure?
On the physical plane, I’m learning to walk again. My new regimen happens in our large, local supermarket where I PUSH my shopping cart three times a week. It’s difficult, but with every session it gets easier. Today, while pushing, I heard myself humming the song, “Yes I can.” from The Little Engine That Could. PUSH PUSH, I roll on. Yes, I can!
“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try” – Dr. Seuss
As a kid I loved things that were different, out of the ordinary; unpredictable rhyme, unpredictable reason, things that flowed by chance, and anything that stirred my wild imagination.
I remember the day at the Tucson Public Library when I first discovered a book called “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.” Published in 1937, the story turned 77 this year. It’s about a boy who wants to impress his father with an interesting account of what happens on his way home from school. So instead of seeing the same boring old horse and wagon on Mulberry Street, the boy imagines a zebra pulling the wagon. Then as his imagination kicks in and runs wild, the zebra morphs into a reindeer, the wagon becomes a golden chariot, and then magically changes into a fancy sleigh.
From that day forward, the different rhythmic lines in Dr Seuss’ children’s books stirred my imagination again and again. I enjoyed making up songs and stories; but I had dyslexia and my language skills needed help. When I tried to speak, my words got all mixed up and people laughed at me. My dad nicknamed me ‘Dutch’ because it sounded like I was trying to speak a foreign language.
My mother worked long hours teaching me how to read and write by putting the letters and sounds together in word puzzle games. By the time I was in the fourth grade, I was reading, writing, and telling stories that others understood. I wrote a short story about my dog Brownie and his bad liver breath, and how I loved him in spite of his bad breath. The story won first place in a competition, giving me confidence to keep writing.
I recently received a fun note from a book reviewer, and it got me thinking about thinking … left and right, low and high. Rhonda, the reviewer wrote, “It was a different reading experience, but then I love different.”
I smiled at the thought. My writing style is different. It is unique.
Swinging is pure joy! As a kid, I loved to swing. If I saw a swing, I’d run for it, sit on it, kick off with my feet, and get the momentum going until I knew I was touching the sky. The higher I’d go, the better it felt. Swinging higher, I could feel the breeze pat my face and the wind whip my long braids about as I soared skyward. I would try to swing so high that I would fly over the top. Never did; but I loved that exhilarating feeling of taking off, leaving the ground behind, and flying high. Swinging while standing up was a whole other over the rainbow, flying high adventure. That’s when I would burst into song, singing my favorite, “Would you like to swing on a star?” Felt like I was doing just that. Whee! Pure glee!
To this day, I can’t resist having a good swing to relax and loose myself to that feeling of joy–letting go of everything that holds me back. Unfortunately, the old swing set (shown above) had a broken seat so I wasn’t able to swing on it when we visited our friend Jerry on his farm for a typical Uruguan asado last weekend. So I sat on a chair nearby instead and imagined swinging to my heart’s content. I swung so high, I touched the sky.
Over the years, I’ve been interviewed about my writing, my books, and life in general. A couple of my favorite questions remind me of why I like to swing and imagine.
Who were you as a child? (Were you the shy, demure child, or did you always have that adventurous spirit)?
Shy? Never. More of a tomboy type. Always adventurous, I had a wild imagination. I was the second child born into a family of eight children. My father became a Pentecostal preacher months after I was born (was I to blame?) and my family moved from Los Angeles, California to Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, and then to Arizona.
Most of my childhood was spent in Tucson, Arizona. I used to sit out on a hot rock in the desert with my dog and wait for the space ship to pick us up. I was convinced they had left me with the wrong family.
If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be and why?
An orangutan. They’re gentle and quiet, and swing when they get bored. It would be a good way to study people and observe their strange behaviors.
If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be and why?
As early as I can remember, I’ve felt a presence of protection around me, someone assigned to assist and guide me during my journey on earth. A helping hand. My very own heavenly representative. Mine never appeared as a chubby cherub but she did have wings, a long flowing robe, and moved like a graceful dancer.
One time, she appeared as a playful dog scampering through the woods with me one late night in Germany. I had just missed the last tram home and decided to walk a short-cut through the woods to my apartment. The dog joined me as soon as I entered the forest path, licked my hand, and stayed by my side until I arrived at my apartment. I turned to pat her head and say thanks but she had disappeared into the night. I never saw her again, but I was aware of the protection she provided. It felt like the same energy I had known as a child with my all-knowing, winged spirit guide.
Shortly before my first art exhibit in Frankfurt, Germany, I received a telephone call from a woman who collected art. I asked her how she knew about my upcoming exhibit. She said she saw a poster plastered around a column in a local U-Bahn station and found herself drawn to it. She found my name and telephone number in the local telephone directory. She asked if she could view the paintings before the show’s opening night. I agreed and she came to my studio immediately to see my work. Exotic looking, she arrived in a beautiful pink Indian sari, I noticed she also had a red dot painted on her forehead. After viewing the paintings, she asked if she could purchase the one titled, “Helping Hand.” I, of course, was delighted and told her it was my guardian angel’s hand. She nodded and insisted on paying me before the opening. She agreed to send a check and promised to collect the piece after the exhibit was over. She smiled and said, “It’s good to have a ‘SOLD’ or ‘ON LOAN from a private collector’ sign on a work on opening night. Helps sell art.”
Knowing I was down to my last pfennigs, and wondering where the next money was coming from, I agreed. The entire time she visited me, she seemed familiar. As though I knew her from another place or time. Perhaps it was déjà vu.
That night, I dreamed of my guardian angel from childhood, the one with the long flowing robe, sort of sari-like. When I was little, she was much bigger and better at everything than me and always got me out of tight spots and often helped steer me to safety over an old swinging, rickety bridge. As a storm stirred overhead, dark shapes lurked in the raging river below. This time I realized that I was crossing the bridge alone. When I turned my head to look behind, I saw myself as a child and the guardian angel of my youth fading away. I heard a voice say, “You’re almost there. Follow the moonlight.”
Just as I reached the other side and landed firmly on solid ground, I watched the bridge collapse and crash into the river below. By heeding her advice, I had saved myself. I awoke the next morning feeling grateful to all who helped me in life. I had a long list of helpers.
A check arrived in my mailbox three days later, to pay for the painting, I was elated and invited a friend to lunch to celebrate.
My first art exhibit was a great success. By evening’s end, every painting had a red dot on it showing it was sold. My eyes searched the crowd for the red dot on the Indian woman’s forehead but she wasn’t there. A man collected the painting a month later, after the show closed.
In traditional cultures, people tend to believe dreams reveal hidden truths about themselves and the world around them: when the body sleeps, the soul is free to wander the universe and collect information. I like that idea.
Scientists, searching for ways to explain and define dreams report that dreaming is just another way of thinking, on a different level. Thinking in the sleep state. Something I’ve known since childhood because my dreams always seem so real and full of meaning. Hours after dreaming, I can recall detailed images, voices, and symbols. Typically, I don’t recognize the meaning of the dream immediately, but I sense if it contains something significant. It often seems like a secret message sent to me in code from another dimension. A code only I can decipher through careful observation, and a willingness to welcome and embrace the hidden truth of the dream.
As a child, I sometimes felt like Cinderella waking up in the middle of a dream and finding myself in an exciting, glamorous, improbable life. And then I would wonder, does one use a dream to rehearse life, or live to rehearse a dream? Or, am I perhaps awakening to a life I dreamed of having that actually came true?
As a kid, one of my greatest role models was my great-aunt Gladys. A retired school teacher, she married a banker and they traveled the world. Once a teacher, always a teacher—she sent picture postcards to her family and friends. For me, it was so exciting to receive a postcard from destinations far away—places I dreamed of visiting one day. I used to sleep with those postcards on my heart and imagine they were magic carpets that could fly me to the exotic place shown on the postcard photo.
Guess what? Years later, I have visited most of the places Aunt Gladys traveled to and even wrote a children’s book to honor her, and her positive influence in my life. Her postcards encouraged me to explore the great big wonderful world. I believe that my far fetched dreams over the years are the reason I live a most extraordinary and exciting life.
Do you pay attention to your dreams? Do you keep a dream journal? If so, I’d love to hear from you.
Dreams have fascinated me since childhood. My dreams always seemed so real and full of meaning. Hours after dreaming, I could recall in detail the images, voices, and symbols. Most often I didn’t know the meaning immediately, but I sensed it was important information that I needed to figure out. As if a secret message in code needed to be deciphered through careful observation with a willingness to embrace the hidden truth about myself and the world around me.
Sometimes I felt like Cinderella waking up in the middle of a dream… finding myself in an exciting, glamorous, improbable, far-fetched life. And then I would wonder, Continue reading “Once Upon A Dream”
A few weeks after my memoir The Lullaby Illusion was released, I heard from several friends who lived in Cyprus during the Cyprus War of 1974—people who, like me, witnessed the atrocities firsthand. One man (Don)who contacted me was a boy of five when the war happened.
I first met Donnie when he was living with his family in Kyrenia, Cyprus in the early 70s. A few years later Donnie and his family were with me and a group of other civilians stuck in a UN Camp in the hills above Kyrenia during the war in July 1974.
On our third day in the camp a sudden and loud burst of close range gunfire pinned us to the ground as Greek and Turkish soldiers surrounded us and began firing shots at each other. “Move!” I screamed. “We’re under attack.” Noticing a small boy asleep on the ground, face up and alone a few feet away, I crawled over to him and covered his body with mine until the firing soldiers moved on. Then I picked him up and ran with others down the hill toward a ravine. Continue reading “Donnie’s Drawing”
Her questions were thought-provoking and took me back to my childhood reminding me of why I became a writer.
Susan, I’ve been perusing the various websites and web-pages of yours and I have to say that you have lived an extraordinary life. If you don’t mind though, I’d like to start this interview a bit further back by asking you about your childhood. Who were you as a child? (Were you the shy, demure child, or did you always have that adventurous spirit)?