Searchlights & Signal Flares


Tiny Lights' On-line Writer's Exchange

What is the past? Where is it located? (06/15/10)



Featured writer: Claudia Larson



Contributors this month:
Arelene L. Mandell
Becky Povich
Claudia Larson
Don Edgers
Elaine Webster
Linda O'Connell
Sara A. Baker
Susan Bono


Lived In

by Claudia Larson

The past lives in my throat, recalling Dad's whistling walk across the farmyard.

The past lives in my softened arms, easily stretched across time zones to hold my newborn grandchildren and my three infant children.

The past lives in my solar plexus when a past trauma is triggered into present day anxiety and then into deep self compassion.

The past lives in fingertips that learned to play my grandparents' upright, elegantly carved piano and today play for my grandchildren.

The past lives in the sight of irises outside the kitchen window, a color different than Mom's irises that were under her kitchen window.

The past lives in the scent of feed store hay, placing a foot in the present and the other in the childhood hay mow.

Past's threads and yarns weave themselves across today's weft, creating my life's fabric.

Claudia Larson lives in Sebastopol, CA. In the past she lived on her North Dakotan family farm and in Homer, Alaska.


Who's There?

  by Arelene L. Mandell

Striding toward seventy, the past keeps sneaking up and bopping me on the head.

Once upon a time, when I was sixteen, the past was that nerdy Friday night date, Arvin,dismissed by Saturday night when a guy named Ronny pulls up in the shiny white convertible his widowed mother has just bought him for his college graduation. And he asks me to his senior prom where Johnny Mathis will be the headliner.

Lately the past is crowded by the dead. Some are newly departed, husbands of good friends. Others, my eighteen aunts and uncles, fading photographs. On Father's Day, I remembered my father, George Kostick, who died 35 years ago, who pulled me on my sled and taught me how to build with my Erector Set. He visits less often now.

Recently Johnny Mathis performed at Wells Fargo. And once again I rested my head on Ronny's broad chest, holding my wrist carefully so as not to crush my beautiful orchid corsage.


Arlene L. Mandell is grateful for Susan's monthly questions which are like magical keys unlocking buried treasure chests.

What is the past? Where is it located?

  by Becky Povich

The past is any moment in time that has come and gone. The past was here just a second ago, minutes ago, hours ago. Although I know that to be true, when I think of or speak about "the past," I generally have in mind a period of time and events that happened long ago. The past is a distant place. It is my childhood. It is my teen years. It is always years ago. It is always beyond my reach.

I'd like to believe that the past is actually located somewhere. That there truly was such a contraption as a Time Machine to travel in, to go back and observe my younger self. I would love to return to those delightful days of innocence.

Would I be tempted to change the course of history, if the power was available? I definitely would not want to possess that authority or capability. Just give me my own past. It is what I know the best.

Becky Povich persistently, incessantly, and continuously thinks and writes about "the past."
The main reason for this? She is writing her first book, a memoir. Feel free to e-mail Becky at Writergal53@aol.com.

Visit her blog, too, at: www.beckypovich.blogspot.com.


Lived In

  by Claudia Larson

The past lives in my throat, recalling Dad's whistling walk across the farmyard.

The past lives in my softened arms, easily stretched across time zones to hold my newborn grandchildren and my three infant children.

The past lives in my solar plexus when a past trauma is triggered into present day anxiety and then into deep self compassion.

The past lives in fingertips that learned to play my grandparents' upright, elegantly carved piano and today play for my grandchildren.

The past lives in the sight of irises outside the kitchen window, a color different than Mom's irises that were under her kitchen window.

The past lives in the scent of feed store hay, placing a foot in the present and the other in the childhood hay mow.

Past's threads and yarns weave themselves across today's weft, creating my life's fabric.

Claudia Larson lives in Sebastopol, CA. In the past she lived on her North Dakotan family farm and in Homer, Alaska.


26,000 Yesterdays on Planet Earth

  by Don Edgers

I'll jump to September 2010 to define what and where my past (barring an alien abduction) will be.

Those 26,000 days will be an accumulation of memories of sights, sounds, smells, feelings, attitudes, knowledge and tastes that have occurred and accumulated in my heart, mind and microcosm during my 71-year-sojourn on the third planet from the sun.

The past is my writing neighborhood, and like cleaning out an attic, I recycle stories from my attic and peddle the "good stuff" to anyone who might be interested in it.



Don presently lives and writes in Port Orchard, WA. You can read stories from his attic at www.anislandintime.com
or check out his books at www.amazon.com.


Try Now

  by Elaine Webster

I try to forget, but it comes back around.
I try to remember, but I cannot recall.
I try to forgive, but I am not forgiven.
I try to be forgiven, but I am scorned.
I try to balance, but I trip and fall.
I try to sprawl, but I am uplifted.
I try to love, but it turns to hate.
I try to hate, but it turns to love.
I try to find, but I am lost.
I try to lose, but I win.

The past is before now. It is located in the trying.


Elaine Webster, is a staff writer for the on-line publication,Greener Living Today. She’s part of the Memoir Writing group in Sebastopol sponsored by SRJC and Steve Boga is the instructor. She lives in Windsor, CA. Her e-mail Elaine@mediadesign-mds.com.


Take Me There

  by Linda O'Connell

When I hear an old time rock and roll song, my past comes alive. It begins with the tap of my toes then rhythmically tingles up my spine all the way to my shoulders, and I must boogie, shimmy, shake, even if I am sitting in my chair.

Like a rap at the door, I answer the knock and am greeted by my younger self. The past is in every musical note, every sh-boom, high pitched singer's voice, every rat tail comb that I ever used to tease my hair, every mini skirt I flounced in, and every 45rpm record I ever purchased. Every flail, twist, twirl and mashed potato stomp comes rushing back in an open-armed greeting, and it is all I can do to restrain my boogie-woogie self to not get up and bring the past to life.

Sometimes I can't resist, and I two-step down the cookie aisle. I've even been caught shaking, rattling and rolling in the dentist's reception room. I can't help myself; when my songs come on, my past erupts like a volcano of memories, and I must boogie.

Linda O'Connell of St. Louis, MO originally thought she would write about how she sees the past in the faces of each grandchild, but as she was writing, a song came on the radio that led her back.




No Googles

  by Sara A. Baker

Like any respectable writer, I Googled the two questions but oddly found no answers! So, if Google doesn't have an answer to the questions, should I assume that none exists? Yet, we believe the past exists. Perhaps, it dwells in a compartment in the subconscious accessed through dreams, reflection, and memories that ignite the past with detail and fervor. However, because the past is a concept, it lacks substance. We can not, therefore, actually see it, touch it, taste it, smell it, or hear it. So, it appears fleeting and virtually non-existent. In that sense, the past, like the future, is as elusive as a spring butterfly.

We can, though, access the past with our memories using our five senses as portals that allow us to mentally time travel. When we travel to the past, sometimes it is delicately sweet like perfectly ripened fruit and should be relished; sometimes the past is bitter like burned coffee and requires a strong stomach. Occasionally, the past is distasteful like sour milk and, like the history on one's computer, any trace of it needs to be permanently discarded.

Perhaps, the past and present inexorably linked like flesh and bones with one influencing the other and vice versa. Furthermore, do the past, present, and even the future exist separately, or do they occur simultaneously like time zones with events happening in each concurrently? Do we create the past the moment we reflect upon today? Is the past created with each breath we take? So, can the same thing be said about the future? Do we create the future the moment we think about it? Is the past the future's yesterday while the future is the past's tomorrow?

If you follow this logic, the past, like time, is a convenient human creation and is a concept that resides solely in our minds. In fact, we humans are the only creatures on this planet that are concerned with time and its offspring—the past, present, and future. Even Google can't define them for us or tell us where they are located!


Sara A. Baker is a retired teacher and freelance writer who lives in Allen, Texas.


Past Perfect

  by Susan Bono

The past is a cookie jar with cinnamon-flecked crumbs at the bottom. The ceramic lid clinks against the rim and now the past is a wind-brightened backyard with laundry flapping. I run between lines of drying sheets, the evaporating damp cooling my face. That is the past until the gas wall heater clicks on and sleep-inducing waves of warmth cause my eyelids to droop. I turn over in the bed of the past, pulling one of my grandmother's quilts up to my chin. I listen to the sound of December rain spattering the windows and the soft clatter of my mother washing dishes in the kitchen. I let my eyes close, knowing that the past will soon be a vivid winter sunrise and a bowl of oatmeal with milk and brown sugar before it becomes other moments I have lived.


Susan Bono goes where the past takes her in Petaluma, CA.

Searchlights Editor:

Susan Bono

Columnists:

C. Larson, B. Povich, M. Petty, C. Crawford, T. Sanders

Columnists Emeriti: Christine Falcone, David S. Johnson, Betty Rodgers, Jordan E. Rosenfeld, Betty Winslow


Susan Bono is a writing coach, editor and freelance writer living in Petaluma, CA. She has published Tiny Lights: A Journal of Personal Narrative since 1995, along with its online counterpart here at tiny-lights.com. She conducts creative writing classes in Petaluma and Santa Rosa and co-hosts the quarterly Speakeasy Literary Saloon at the Aqus Café in Petaluma. She's on the boards of Petaluma Readers Theatre and the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference. She is still writing a postcard a day. Her most recent publishing credits include Petaluma Readers Theatre, KRCB’s Mouthful, Milk and Ink, and Passager Magazine.

Marilyn Petty is a dyed-in-the wool Midwesterner, a long-ago émigré to California and a fortunate resident of Sonoma County, CA. She taught weaving through the SRJC for 8 years and was the reporter, essayist, editor and publisher of the Redwood Empire Handweavers and Spinners Guild for 10 years. When not tangling with yarns, she is unknotting words, writing poetry and personal essays. She putters in the garden when words fail her.

Catherine Crawford is a former technical writer, editor, and course materials developer for high tech industries. She has taught college English at the four-year degree level, published two award winning chapbooks of poetry, and written articles for 52perfectdays.com, a Portland, Oregon online travel magazine. She works as an editor in Vancouver, Washington. Her email: greenwriter1960@gmail.com

Claudia Larson, in her childhood, wrote long letters to her best-friend cousin and enthralled herself by writing a heart-rending story of two orphans. She writes fewer letters nowadays and prefers writing poetry and memoirs of her North Dakotan farm girl days. She is not yet an orphan, has six siblings and lives in Sebastopol, CA.

Becky Povich lives near St. Louis, Missouri. Although not young in "people years," she's only been writing for ten of those. Getting her first book completed, a memoir, is her current short-term goal. She can be reached at Writergal53@aol.com, or visit her blog at www.beckypovich.blogspot.com.

Theresa Sanders lives in suburban St. Louis, Missouri, where she is completing a novel. A former award-winning technical writer and consultant, she managed a Documentation and Training department before turning to her first love, creative writing. Her stories appear regularly in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Theresa welcomes email and would love to hear from you. Contact her at: TheresaLSanders@charter.net

Thanks to all who participated this month. It's good to know you're out there! We're looking forward to hearing from you and those you inspired sometime soon! Check this column each month to see what's new. Return to Searchlights & Signal Flares menu for future topics and guidelines.

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