Sunday, September 24, 2023

Conversation Under The Maple # 6


"Potato skins,” said Harvey, coming from the kitchen where he had heated his treats under the broiler. "Red potatoes from Liz with cheese, green onion, and sour cream to dip. And Ollie, there is a bag of potatoes on your counter for you to make the potato salad for next Sunday. The kids agreed to come since I set the date and didn't give them a choice. They'll be driving down from Seattle and Portland."


"Great, Harvey," said Ollie, "you guys are so creative with the snacks. Is this a competition?"


"For me, it was a slam dunk. I used the inside of the potatoes for hash browns."


Everyone dived in. 


"Yum, these are perfect, Harvey, thanks," says Sally.


After everyone had eaten a stuffed potato skin and settled into their seats with a drink, Twinkie pulled a canvas bag from beneath her seat. "Ollie, I brought you something." She pulled a 6-inch glass orb from the canvas bag. "It's a fishing net float I made last Saturday, primitive by professional standards, but my first piece worth sharing." She held it out to Ollie. "It’s for inviting us into your lovely home. And for being the gracious hostess, you are."


"Oh my, Twinkie," says Ollie, gently taking the glass ball. "It's beautiful. Your blues and greens are exquisite," she turned it around in her hand, "and there's a bit of purple, "How'd you do that? You are an artist! I see there's a little loop. I will hang it in my kitchen window. Thank you so much. I am honored." 


Ollie swishes her white caftan aside, and with her gold dangling earrings flashing in the sunlight, she sits the glass ball in the center of the table. "Simad," she says, "We sent you off with little help last week."


"Truth be told, I ran off because I was embarrassed. I was complaining."


"No, Simad, you told us how you felt," Ollie explained. "That's different from complaining. As much as we would like it, life isn't always rosy. Our experiences are what they are. Remember, we're here to support and encourage."


"Then figure out what in the hell is wrong with me."


"You know what?" says Shal, "Stuckness like you are having means you are onto something big."


"You think so?"


"Well, the closer you are to the truth, the more the monster resistance will jump on you. It's inescapable. It is always there. It is not your fault. You can't kill it."


"Whoa, that's encouraging."


"But you can trick it."


"Shal, where do you get these things?"


"Well, for one, I read Steven Pressfield's Do the Work. One exercise is this: He took it from Patrica Ryan Madson's book Improv Wisdom. Madson was an Impro teacher at Stanford, and one of her exercises was this: Imagine you have a box. What's inside? You open it, and there is a frog, a book, or a clock inside. No matter how many times you open the box, something will always be inside. 


"Pressfield wrote, 'I believe with unshakable faith that there will always be something in the box. Ask me about my religion? That's it. That's how I approach my work. My brain will always give me an answer.' Guys," says Shal, "that's my religion, too."


Simad was silent thoughtful, one hand stroked his chin. 


Ollie said: "Why did you start writing in the first place, Simad?"


"I felt it had me by the neck and wouldn't let go. I had to do it."


"Did you love doing it?"


"Oh yes, I'm in the zone when words are flowing. I'm out of the zone when the words all bump into each other like a train wreck. That's where I am now."


"So, says Twinkie, you do it out of love."


“I suppose so, yes, I love doing it. It feeds me. Is that being egocentric?"


"Who cares, "says Shal. "You must be somewhat egocentric to do any art. It's putting your heart out to be shot at."


"Is that troubling you, Simad? You're afraid of being selfish?"


"Well, there's an aspect to it."


"Give it up, dear one. Do you think Beethoven was worried about his ego?" Ollie says.


"Maybe. He was human."


"Yeah, but he did it anyway, even deaf. Imagine that. He must have heard all that music in his head, and it was roaring to get out."


"But I'm not a Beethoven."


"Nope, he's been done, and you don't want to be deaf anyway. I bet you have words roaring to get out." 


"I do. It's the deadline that has me tied in knots."


"Ah, the ole, I'm not good enough ploy—the pressure. Or maybe you're afraid of being shot at. Get back to the joy of it. That's the reason you want to write. There is always a little something we must pony up to when fulfilling our dream. There is always an aspect to it we don't like. And you have a publisher wanting it. Many people would go into poverty for that."


"I'm into poverty already. This is my first novel. My last book was non-fiction. I'm not supporting myself with it."


"You're making excuses," says Ollie, "Get back onto the joy of it. Do you have your ending?"


"That's part of the problem."


"Let your protagonist write her own ending. You don't have to do everything for her."


Simad laughs. "I'm curious to see what she comes up with."


"Me too. Hurry and finish so I can read it. I'm tired of your lolly-gagging. Even if you don't know what to write, your fingers should move on that keyboard. Write "crap, crap, crap***" until something emerges." Ollie fills her cup as though for emphasis.


"And," says Twinkie, "You still have your hearing."


"Yeah, if I didn’t I wouldn't hear all this advice. Or know to love you guys because you want to help me."


"And stop worrying about being perfect. That'll kill you. Just get 'er done," said Sally. "When we were on vacation, my kids got their best shopping done in the last 15 minutes. There was something about the urgency of it."


"But Sally, Chefs are notorious for being a perfectionist. What do you do if a dish isn't perfect?"


"I throw it in the garbage and start over. I do have a deadline—a customer waiting for their food. I don't cook all that much, though. I give the recipes to my cooks, and they do it. I'm not looking for a Michelin star. I'm a cook, not a Chef. I'm more like Julia Childs: a pinch of this, a dob of that, pour in some red wine, eat, enjoy."


"How did you get so blasé about your art, Sally?"


"I'm not having a heart attack over a plate of spaghetti. Oh, I'm sorry, Harvey."


"No problem. Liz couldn't cook worth a darn. She loved to garden, though. You figure."


"So, she died doing what she loved. We should all be so lucky." Twinkie says, "I don't mean to be disrespectful, Harvey."


"It's good that you are disrespectful about death, for there isn't any. People live on, just not here. It's the person to hold and to love I miss. We had our ups and downs in marriage but were always committed to working it out. She was my best friend and my lover. I looked forward to coming home every day."


"We came together to expand our spiritual journey, Harvey. Thanks for sharing that." Ollie says. "Simad, I suggest you write for about 15 minutes outside your manuscript. Write out the crap. Or run around the block. Or clean house. By the way, do you have dishes in the sink?"




"Wash them as soon as you get home, and your block will disappear."


"Is this like paying for warts to make them go away?"




"I'll do it. In fact, I'm excited. I'll wash the dishes, then dive into my novel. I'll pretend I'm shopping those last 15 minutes before boarding the plane for home.


Shal pipes up, "Homer began both the Iliad and the Odyssey with a prayer to the Muse. He knew his best work came from some invisible source he could not control. He could only invoke it."


"I will let my characters get what they have been wanting all along.," says Simad. "I believe I was afraid to write "The End,' although writing 'The End' is passe' now."


"Yeah, Simad," says Shal, "just finish the damn thing. Be cocky enough to believe you can do it."


"I will."


"One more thing," said Shal, "Oscar Wilde said. He always passed on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it, he said. "It is never of any use to oneself."


"Here, here," said Harvey, chuckling, and hoisting himself out of his chair. "I'll heat up the rest of the potato skins."



P.S.You can find all the conversations on Substack, plus a little extra in between. 


Jewell D's Substack



Monday, September 18, 2023

Conversation Under the Maple # 5


"I brought the snacks today," says Simad, setting a small ice chest on the table. "Since my cat cooks better than me, I brought store-bought mochi's."

"What's a mochi?" asks Twinkie."

"Japanese rice cakes- stuffed with ice cream--an ice cream you can eat with your fingers."

"Yum," says Harvey, "biting into the soft rice pillow filled with Mango ice cream. "My first. How many can I have?'

"Oh, there are about six a piece."

Harvey laughed. "My kind of guy."

"Harvey," says Ollie," pouring herself a cup of coffee, "how was your week? I wondered how it went after last Tuesday."

"Umpth," Harvey grunted, dropping into a chair. "You know what that Richard Bach fella said, 'If you wonder if your mission on earth is over, and you're alive, it isn't?" He placed one ankle over the other leg. "Well, Liz's was over, and mine isn't. I had been thinking of myself, not her. It makes me wonder, though, does a person know when it's time, or is our life just snuffed out?"

"Depends on your view, I guess," says Ollie. "It hurts if we think the person chose to leave us. But then it isn't much better to think their life was snuffed out without their consent. It's complicated since there are many ideas on the subject. I know it's hard when someone's physical presence is no longer with us. We miss them."

"Yeah, I suppose I will miss her forever—well, until I see her again. You know, ever since we're old enough to listen, we hear that death is the final hurrah. Our pets die, our Grandmas and Grandpas, parents even. When death comes, we are shocked. 'It's a tragedy,' we say. 'How did that happen? What did they die of?' I'm glad she didn't have to feel what I'm feeling."

"Oh Harvey," says Twinkie, "You took her pain. You were gallant to the end."

"What a dear young lady you are."

Simad pipes up: "There is a story about a famous hunchback in love with a beautiful woman. When she hesitated to marry him because of his condition, he said, 'I took it, so you didn't have to.' She married him."

"Oh wow," said Harvey, scratching his head. "You guys are something else. You know what else I did this week?"

"What?" "Tell us." "Go for it."

"You know Liz's garden has been fallow for almost two years, overgrown, a mess. I hadn't visited it until last Saturday. I stood there looking over the brambles and began to pull weeds. Among them, I found volunteer potato plants, so I dug potatoes, a wheelbarrow full of red organic potatoes.

"If you want some, I have a box in the car. And there was an oregano plant as large as the bathtub. I left it and cleared the area around it. There is spice for my spaghetti sauce—more than I will ever use. I gave some to the neighbors. I was so into cleaning that I rented a rototiller and completely cleared the area. While at the garden shop, I bought a box of wildflower seeds, except the gardener said to plant them in the spring, as they probably wouldn't winter over."

"Have your get-together in the spring, Harvey, and we will all throw seeds," said Sally. "Your kids might like that too. What a great honor to Liz."

"Better than visiting a cemetery, I'd say," says Shal. "a field of wildflowers. I wish it was spring."

"Me too."

"I'm proud of you, Harvey," says Ollie.

"Me too's," around the table.

"I'm going to hold you to it, Harvey," says Shal, "to have that gathering. I know how easy it is to lose momentum. Inspiration wanes if we don't act on it."

"I'll tell the kids this week so they can plan on it."

"What about having it before spring?" Shal suggests. "You can invite us back when the wildflowers are in bloom."

"I want to do it now." Harvey pulls out his phone and checks the calendar. "How about we do it on Saturday the 30th. No, Sunday the 31st. I don't want to interfere with Twinkie's Glass Blowing Class. You went, didn't you?"

"I did, all day Saturday. And I went back on Sunday, too. Oh, Harvey, I would love to come on that Sunday if it works for your family."

"I'll bribe them. Let's do it. I have a right to be impulsive."

"You let us know, says Ollie," Now, Twinkie, tell us about your class."

"Alan had me dipping the blow rod into the molten glass and carrying it to the table practically all day on Saturday. By the end of the day, those two pounds of glass on the end of that blowpipe felt like I was carrying an anvil, but I loved every minute. It doesn't hurt that Alan is a hunk and the nicest teacher I could ask for."

"Hum," says Ollie, "I detect more than a love of glass blowing."

"In my dreams," says Twinkie. "Everybody falls in love with Alan."

"The same with you, Twinkie."

Her cheeks glow pink.

"I went back on Sunday because Alan was having a demonstration for tourists, and he invited me. At the demo, he introduced me as a trainee, and asked if I would explain the instruments to them and tell them how hot the furnace is, and people wanted to know if we went to the beach to collect sand."

"Do you?" asks Simad.

"No, we must buy it, as it is a special blend. Expensive, too."

"How old is that Alan fella?" asks Harvey. "Is he married?"

"No. He isn't married. I sneakily asked about his family. No wife, no kids. He's in his early thirties."

"Okay then," says Harvey.

"Thanks, Pop, for looking out for me."

"You're welcome."

"Shal, Sally, Simad, what's happening with you guys?" Ollie asks.

"Well, I'm glad I began meditating again, "Shal says. "I'm less stressed out over work. My wife said I stopped pacing the floor. I didn't even notice. 

 I did have an experience this week. You know I'm not religious. I don't want any organized events, doctrines, or dogma. But as I sat and meditated, I entered an altered state where I felt in touch with the divine. It was a feeling, not a belief. My head was light, and I drifted for the longest while. I was in space with endless possibilities around me. I understand what people mean by being spiritual, for I believe that space is where God is. And I want an artistic endeavor to be enthusiastic about, like Twinkie has, something I can sink my teeth into. I'm tired of selling things. I want to be visited by the muse."

"Be still and listen."

“Come over to my shop," said Harvey. "Look around. See if anything grabs you. I do woodworking from time to time."

"Do you have a torch?"

"Yep, I do."

“I've thought of sculpturing where you weld odds and ends together and come up with something like a college."


"Maybe. More like free form."

"Gather some junk and come on over. We'll see what we can come up with."

"I'd like that, Harvey."

"Harvey," says Sally, "How about you give me a batch of Liz's wonderful red potatoes, and I will make an Italian potato salad for your gathering on the 31st. It's great for an outdoor picnic since it has no mayonnaise, just oil, vinegar, and herbs, and it's best served warm."

"That would be perfect."

"And throw in some of that oregano."

"I'll bring something," says Twinkie.

"Me too says Ollie."

Simad and Shal: "I will. I will."

"Well, it's settled then," said Harvey, "I'll provide the meat, chicken, and veggie burgers."

"Okay, Simad," asks Ollie, "how about you?"

"Everyone else seems happy and I'm miserable. I'm going crazy. I have a deadline, and the closer it gets, the more uptight I get. Besides, my girlfriend is tired of me complaining about my writing. I think she wants to move on.

"When I'm in a jumble like now, meditation or affirmations just irk me. I'm stuck."

"Okay, guys, pounce on Simad." Says Ollie. "We set this up to be a support group."




P.S. Thanks for reading

 Here is a  brief explanation of what will occur on Jewell D' Substack.

"Conversations Under the Maple" will continue to be here, so you guys don't need to go there for them, but I will be adding content between the conversations that will be from me, not the group.

Here is the first in between post by me, not the group:


Build It and They Will Come

Will they?


If I could build a coffee shop, a hang-out place, I would. We could sit and read, talk, or get our group together, find new friends, and dare to get honest with feelings and questions on how to deal with life, the Universe, and everything. Spirituality, God, psychology, our psyche, our hearts, and our egos are all there. That’s life.

However I'm stuck on this page. But then maybe that’s the best way to meet you. Our local is worldwide. Our interests are diverse. It’s good you didn’t find me at the beginning of my tenure here on Substack, for I kept changing my plan. (If I’m painting a room, I change the color about three times too.) But now I believe I’ve settled down to a color.


I dipped my paint brush into water into which I had dropped blobs of oil paint—remember when we did that in school? Water and oil paint don’t mix, so the paint floats on the water. Whatever you dip into the water will come out smeared with oil paint, a kaleidoscope of color. In school, we dipped jars. Here, I will dip my brush and swipe it across the page.

We will talk about whatever comes to mind, not gossip, but real stuff.  The subjects are endless. It’s all life. The mixture of colors.

I began Conversations Under the Maple on my blog, and when a reader mentioned Substack (that I didn’t know existed), I decided to check it out, and Viola’ here I am.

I will publish From Beneath the Maple Tree weekly as long as they allow me to listen in on the conversation. Interspersed between those posts will be my visit with you—as I am doing now. And I expect some input in return. Fair enough? Okay.

If you wonder how six people can gather under the maple tree for an entire afternoon one day a week, I think back to a six-month training. A group of twenty or so met for a full day twice a week for six months. Then, some of us went on to a second six-month training. And there were young people, lovers, couples, at least two engineers, a professor, a physicist, a doctor, writers, housewives, and a budding psychologist all mixed together. How did they get the time off? I don’t know. They were committed to their own life advancement.

Here, it will be easy: read for 10 minutes or so.

Ten minutes might change our lives.

I can’t wait.

Please go to 

Jewell D's Substack

(copy and paste)


I subscribed to Jewell D's Substack, and the moment I posted, it fell into my ebox. That was so cool, and it didn't cost me a red cent, or a blue or yellow one either, and it won't cost you.