Posted tagged ‘Writing’

Helsinki Moment

July 19, 2018

A few days ago, one of my friends brought me a small gift – a bumper sticker that she thought I would like, knowing my political compass. On a white, frugally used space you can see two rhyming words in dark caps – DUMP TRUMP. No exclamation point, just a straight message. I loved it and immediately thought that it should be distributed around. “Perhaps we should reproduce it in large numbers and pass them out in supermarkets and other public places?”

Later that evening I thought about that sticker again. “OK, it is cute, it is clever, and it feels good to have it, but in the reality of today’s political situation in our country, how could Trump be dumped?!  Impeachment comes to mind, but… it’s a very lengthy, complicated process and with today’s Republicans infected by the Trumpism disease and their self-interest… forget it!

I recall numerous slogans, propaganda statements, and political posters from the time of my growing up in post-war Poland controlled by Soviet style Communist apparatchiks. I developed a strong dislike of propaganda that stayed with me till today. After years of living in this country, I learned to accept the fact that propaganda is alive here as well, but it’s called “political advertising.” However, I like bumper stickers, and when I am touched by one, I put it on my car or on my studio’s wall like this one: DUMP TRUMP.

Like many, I have been very frustrated, stressed, and politically angry from the day Trump got elected and became the 45th President of this country! Trump’s domination by creating chaos and entering our lives every day with his bombastic personality, lies and endless tweets made me sick and evoked a form of political lethargy. This is similar to the response by many of us living in Tucson to its powerful sun generating almost unbearable heat in summer – it evokes physical lethargy with a desire to sleep and wait for cooler days. And they do come – with the monsoon’s rains! The lethargy disappears and new energy emerges! But that is the work of Nature. Political lethargy is much more complicated to deal with because is it caused by man-made politics and, in this particular case, Trump-made confusing politics. The cure has to come from us – society.

Then came the 16th of July 2018 which we Americans and the entire world will remember for a long time – the Helsinki Summit of Trump and Putin.

Helsinki Moment

In truth it was not a Summit, but a two and a half hour private chat of the two most powerful leaders of the world: President Trump and President Putin! Such a private chat should take place in a bar and focus on their wives, lovers, children, pets, or favorite sports, but NOT on matters concerning world politics! Such private chats are fine for us, the ordinary people. However, private chats of Trump and Putin are a totally different matter because they have great consequences.

You can imagine that I watched that Helsinki press conference glued to our TV – making notes, taking photos and recording words of Trump and Putin. Like many I was out-raged.

I will not repeat the epithets or statements the press and some political figures addressed towards Trump at that time. Those opinions are flying like small and large birds on the world’s political sky. However, I will share the one text I immediately sent to a close friend, “Trump’s ‘performance’ was a great embarrassment to this country!”

Let’s face it; Putin definitely won that “match”! With his characteristic calm confidence he presented Trump with a soccer ball from the World Cup, which Trump quickly tossed to Melania as a gift for their son Baron.

Tossing ball

World politics is not like a soccer game, a business deal, or a TV entertainment show – it is more like a very sophisticated chess game! In such a game Putin is a much better player than Trump, who most likely couldn’t beat Putin in a game of checkers!

I have been living here long enough to notice that this society does not like losers – the focus is always on the winner. So why not to DUMP TRUMP?!

Helsinki’s 16th July event will not be forgotten. It was proclaimed by many journalists, diplomats, and politicians as one of the darkest moments in American history.

The Helsinki sky on that memorable night did not get dark. There was a penetrating, gentle light diluting the sky’s darkness. One who does not live there might be surprise by that. But that is Finland – light is always present on summer nights! It might be hard to sleep on such nights, and that specific night was sleepless for many, especially journalists like Anderson Cooper and others.

Helsinki Moment 2

Poetically and politically speaking, I see that gentle light as a symbol of an awakening. Perhaps that Helsinki event will be an awaking moment for our society to see this divisive President in a new light. Perhaps we will unite and decide to DUMP TRUMP.

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Text and photos copyright © 2018 by Alicja Mann, alicjamann.com

The Power of Books

December 2, 2011

Books on bookshelves Copyright (c) 2011 by Alicja Mann

Just looking at them
I grow greedy, as if they were
Freshly baked loaves
Waiting on their shelves
to be broken open— that one
and that….

fragment of “The Bookstall” poem
by Linda Pastan from “Heroes in Disguise”
© 1991

“Freshly baked loaves” — what a metaphor! That is how I feel about books and I am also greedy about them. Really, how could we live without books?

I love books and have been surrounded by them ever since I could read and write, because from that time I was given books as gifts for my birthdays, name-days, and other occasions. Oh yes, I was getting toys, but that was when I was a young child. Once I became seven, and could read pretty well, I was considered an “older” child and consequently expected to not even desire toys anymore. The same rule applied to other kids around me at the time of my growing up in Poland. So for Christmas we received books and games and not some “silly” dolls or cars suitable for the “little ones.” Somehow we did not mind and actually felt proud of that – we felt we were in a different category and a little bit closer to adulthood. Giving up toys — a peculiar rite of passage….

Written words and writers were always highly regarded in Poland.

Speaking of Poland and writers – a few years ago during one of my visits over there, I read a short piece of writing by my aunt’s great grandson, Jaś.

Alicja, Jan, and Great Grandmother - Copyright (c) 2011 by Alicja Mann

What Jaś wrote at the age of 10 (Jaś is the nickname of Jan) impressed me greatly. It fitted my concept of the importance of books in my life as a writer and a publisher. So I purchased Jan’s piece of writing just as I would from an adult writer (for the purpose of publishing) since I strongly believe that good writing should be rewarded and encouraged that way.

Here is the short story by Jan Zembowicz in my translation.

The One Who Dances with the Winds

One winter day I was very bored. So I went to the attic because there are always so many interesting things there. I found an old pen of my grandfather, a black-and-white TV, and a strange book. The title of the book was The One Who Dances with the Winds. It was covered with dust and looked very old with its yellowed and ragged pages.

When I started to read it, I felt the power to rule the weather. “Interesting, isn’t it!?” So I went outside to try it.

I danced the Dance of the Winds and a strong wind arrived. I danced the Snow Dance and snow started falling.

Suddenly two figures appeared. One was half transparent and the other was all white. Apparently they were the spirits of Nature. They told me that I was their ruler and that I had special power. I looked over my shoulder and saw that I had grown wings. “Super, I can fly!” Then I told the spirits to go away.

I noticed that the book was open, and I closed it. I lost my wings and found myself back in the attic.

I opened the book again and this time I found myself in a beautiful garden.

Now, when no one is around, I open the book and ….

Translated by Alicja Mann
© 2011 Word Studio

Jan Zembowicz - photo copyright (c) 2011 by Alicja Mann Tanczacy z wiatrami
Jan Zembowicz — Warsaw 2006 Original text in Polish

During this Holiday Season include books on your shopping list. Happy giving time, happy receiving time, and happy reading time!

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SPECIAL OFFER

To honor this season of giving I offer any book from my publishing site as a free gift for becoming a new subscriber of my blog which I publish twice a month. The subscription is free and can be terminated at anytime.

Please follow the instructions positioned on upper right side of my blog. When you are confirmed as a subscriber, I will send you an e-mail for your instructions on where to send the book of your choice. The book will be shipped by Priority Mail.

This special offer is valid from today till the end of December. Happy Holidays!

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Text and photos copyright © 2011 by Alicja Mann.

A Friendship Tale of Love and Work

October 5, 2010

On the shelf above the desk in my Tucson studio stands a little pale blue framed square picture of Pooh and Piglet walking side by side. The writing on the frame reads:

“We’ll be Friends forever, won’t we, Pooh?” asked Piglet. “Even longer,” Pooh answered.

I received this little picture from my friend Nancy Benoit quite a few years ago while I still lived in Massachusetts.

‘Forever’ means in perpetuity, an eternity. In a relationship of two persons it is a promise to stay in that relationship as long as one lives. When one person dies, the relationship in the real world ends for that person. The forever and “even longer” has to be carried by the one who is still alive.

On Sunday, September 26, just two days after my return from Cape Cod to Tucson, a phone call from Ray, Nancy’s husband, had the sound of tolling bells. And indeed Nancy Louise Benoit died at her Auburn (Massachusetts) home that morning. Knowing about Nancy’s tragic health issues and her struggles with them for quite a long time, I was not surprised by such sad news. I should have been ready for it, but I was not! I guess one never is….

Nancy Louise Benoit

Nancy and I met on Cape Cod as two young mothers – one baby each – about a year after my arrival in this country. We met when I responded to her ad in a local paper. She was giving away a bicycle and I needed one. That day I became the owner of a terrific, fat-tired, one-speed bike. Later I learned that the bike was of importance to her and that is why she did not want to sell it, but “to give it to the right person.”

We “clicked” that day as some people do when they feel some form of kinship.  We lived nearby, were ecstatic about our babies while at the same time a bit overwhelmed by having them. Since neither of us worked professionally at that time, we could arrange our “tea times” relatively easily. On such days we would have a good talk, exchange recipes, and share our notes about children while they played together in the back yard. The seed of our friendship germinated and became a little seedling that year.

Very dynamic times arrived for both families. The Benoits moved out of the Cape to Auburn (about 90 miles away). I went back to work in science.  Later both of us became mothers again. We were busy with building our homes. Still, we kept in touch, but saw each other rarely. So the seedling of our friendship was growing very slowly. The difficult time of my divorce and single motherhood enlivened its growth greatly. Nancy stood strongly behind me and we visited each other more often again.  The seedling became a larger and stronger plant.

Most relationships have some stormy times and so did ours. Actually, we almost killed that plant of friendship, but the plant was smart and went dormant for a long eight years. When it was awakened again, I was an established writer on the Cape and getting ready to enter the world of books. Nancy was writing for and editing a local paper in her corner of Massachusetts. When I decided to publish the book Son of Mashpee, I needed an editor and an excellent one. So I proposed that assignment to Nancy. She accepted and from that time our friendship plant grew like crazy – in height, in width, and in depth. It grew through our hard work together and through long, intimate, middle-of-the-night conversations.  We found great allies in telephones and computers. The distance between Falmouth and Auburn suddenly shrank. We met often – for working in person, for the celebrations of our finished projects, and just for fun. Those were the best and the happiest times of our friendship!

Ray and Nancy Benoit Nancy and Ray Benoit at the door of Alicja’s studio guarded well by Mr. Einstein

My moving to Tucson did not change the dynamics of our work relationship or the personal one. We learned to deal with the huge distance between Massachusetts and Arizona. I was also spending my summers on the Cape and we could see each other once in a while.  But the clouds of Nancy’s unkind fate were coming our way. Still, we threw ourselves into a project of putting together my book of essays. It took longer than we expected with major interruptions by my emergency travels to Poland. As a result we ran that final stage of the project depleted of energy – I by my mother’s death and Nancy by her own health issues. In spite of it all, and thanks to our stubbornness (both of us being Taurus), we finished that race on time and with kudos for the book. Looking at the World Twice would never have seen daylight without Nancy’s perseverance and dedication.

You can see why my most vivid memories of Nancy will be always connected to our work on editing and polishing the words endlessly. And there is some humor in that as well. The process of book editing was long and complex. It went as follows. The file for Nancy’s editing was labeled by me as READY.  Then after her work on it I would receive it back as FINAL, but it was not. A discussion of various details was ahead for us. After that the file would be labeled as ALMOST DONE and I knew that more discussions, especially about placing commas, would follow. Then, after receiving the file marked as DONE, you might think that it would be ready for publishing. Wrong! There was always something more Nancy found in need of correction. Only a file marked by her as DONE DONE could face the world! I truly loved that attention to detail in her work. Now, after Nancy’s departure, I have to carry the flag of DONE DONE excellence – all by myself.

Nancy Benoit and Alicja Mann in Word Studio Nancy and Alicja at work

“We’ll be Friends forever, won’t we?

“Yes, even longer.”

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Copyright © 2010 by Alicja Mann


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