Jen Payne’s New Book


Evidence of Flossing, WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND provides an unexpected metaphor for individual life, culture, and so much more. Nearly all the poems are accompanied with a photograph, often of trash in which lays a dental flosser (yes, one of those instruments with which you floss your teeth) with date and location.  Flossing is supposed to prevent anything from being left behind.  Hence, the title brings up an unusual play on words.

The first section Damage contains more than 20 poems which are a lament about much of modern life–mass shootings, the demise of wildlife, unpleasant changes.  One poem asks the question:  “Would God floss?”  In the second section, Contact, the poems focus on the natural world, walks in the city, the woods, beaches.  The third section, Connection, emphasizes the interconnectedness of everything, especially the relationships between humans and animals and nature.  There are poems about frogs, storms, birds.  One called Evidence of Fairies makes the reader feel the magic of old growth forests with moss and ancient trees.  In the footnote to another poem she discusses the fact that wolf spiders actually create songs to lure lovers. Then, toward the end, the Alice poems appear,  Alice as in “Alice in Wonderland”.  In my favorite poem Payne relates her encounter with a stranger picking oyster mushrooms near a path in the woods.

After reading the poems and comments in this book, I will never view flossing the same way again.  Will I find dental flossers now, something I never even previously thought about?  I use those long strings of floss not flossers.  Apparently the poems and flosser photos affected enough people that some sent Payne photos of flossers they saw here and there on the ground, some of which she has included in the book.

Even if I find no flossers, now I will certainly give a lot more thought to what I and others leave behind.

 

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About the author:  Jennifer Payne is the owner of Words by Jen, a graphic design and creative services company in Connecticut. She belongs to the Arts Council of Greater New Haven as well as several other arts and poetry organizations.  Her work has been featured in various publications, including The Aurorean, Six Sentences, and the Story Circle Network.  You can read some of her writing on her blog Random Acts of Writing.

 

 

Ethiopian Journey–The Castles of Gondar


When my friend told me we were going to visit the Castles of Gondar, I thought he was kidding.  It sounded too much like a movie title, plus castles in Ethiopia?  Seriously.  Then I looked it up and sure enough, there are a lot of them, built by a series of kings, fathers and sons, and a queen.  Some remain in reasonably good repair at least on the outside.  Others crumble in the rain and humidity.  All are in a sort of compound arranged together.

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This castle is near the entrance and in rather good condition.  Restoration work is most complete here so it is safe to walk to the second floor.

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The view from a second floor window.  Because of the altitude and moisture–contrary to popular opinion, a large portion of Ethiopia is mountainous and green–especially during the rainy season, upkeep is not easy.

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The same castle, looking out the door onto the balcony which can be seen in the first photo.  The floors have been restored.

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Looking in the opposite direction from the first castle, several castles and the ruins of others show the layout of the compound.  Our hotel was near the top of the mountain in the distance. Many locals roamed around when we were here.  It is popular to take wedding, anniversary, etc. photos here.

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This photo shows the first castle–in the background–from another side.

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The style of some of the castles, like this one, is more intricate than others.

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This building housed the royal lions.  Tradition for keeping lions goes back several centuries.  The last Ethiopia emperor, Hailie Selassie, was often referred to as the Lion of Judah, the latter referring to the Ethiopia tradition of believing that they are descendants of Solomon and Sheba.  Ethiopian lions are a different sub-species than other African lions, smaller with darker, sometimes black, manes and tails.

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These castles provide a perfect venue for photography.  You can see my friends sitting on the stone wall.

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The royal stables obviously housed many horses.

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The royal dining hall currently receiving restoration work.

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The path to the exit.

The news the last couple of weeks from Gondar has not been pleasant.  Many people have been protesting the government which they view as tyrannical and favoring one ethnic group over the others.  More than ten protesters were killed during the first protest.  Just this past week thousands came out in another peaceful protest.

Gondar (sometimes spelled Gonder) is a business, commercial, and education center.  It is a main route for commerce between Ethiopia and Sudan.  For more detailed information about Gondar, the castles, and the surrounding area, see my blog posts from Aug-Sept. 2014.

 

 

Walking in the Wild–Part One


Toward evening after it had cooled down from the mid 90s, I decided it would be a good time to practice with the camera on this iPAD mini.  Because of all the rain, everything looks like desert plants in Ireland.  I am still learning to type and blog on this tiny keyboard and trying how to space the photos on the iPAD.  I must figure it out if I want to post from Dubai and Ethiopia next week.  I will not be able to do what I did a couple of days ago when I went to the iMAC and fixed it.

The following photos were taken on my stroll.  I know most of the wildflowers:  blackfoot daisies, winecups, chocolate flowers, sundrops, plains zinnia, several kinds of native grasses, milkweed, at least two kinds of prickly pear cactus.  If I can get the photos to space as I want, I will identify what I know as I go.

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The flowers near my front door.  The flowers below are blackfoot daisies and I think winecups.   You will see a lot of blackfoot daisies in these  photos..

 

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The flowers in the photo below are desert (sometimes called Mexican) birds of paradise, catmint, and lavender, none of which are native, but grow well here.

 

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More Mexican birds of paradise, butterfly bushes and red yucca.

 

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Plains daisies and they usually grow in clumps over a wider area as in the photo below, but this little one decided to grow in the middle of the drive and I do not have the heart to destroy it.

 

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Blackfoot daisies and sundrops growing next to a yucca plant.

 

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Rosie getting fatter and fatter on all the grass.

 

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One of my favorite wild flowers, globe mallow.  They are tiny but such a glorious, bright color.

 

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A field of globe mallow and plains zinnia.

 

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Star’s gravesite.  I planted the desert willow, but all the wild flowers are filling in by themselves.  I actually tried planting some flowers here, but the bunnies ate them.

 

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Two weeks ago, I had almost decided to cut this tree down because it appeared totally dead.  I tried to break off a twig, but it only bent, indicating it was still alive.  I thought to my self it might recover if it rained soon enough.  And it did–not quite up to its form a year ago, but vastly improved.

More photos from walking in the wild tomorrow.  Because I live where I do, I cannot get the speediest Internet and it is very, very slow going tonight.