​These were taken on Friday a few miles from where I grew up. It was dusk, when the sky is still clear blue and the shadows lay interesting patterns across the fields. Mere minutes later true twilight falls, and the world is not quite dark, yet not still light. Then the sky often turns so deep a purple it’s almost black. Crickets chirp, frogs croak in dying ponds, and small animals rustle leaves in low lying brush. 

This is my favorite view from this area. Right below the sun, a few miles away sits the farm where I grew up. I can stand there and look away toward the place that is the home of my heart. It’s a fascinating kind of landscape. Just beyond the back fencerow, if you enlarge the image you can see a small bright green spot. On close examination, it becomes a crop covered steep hill. The general area is like that all over. Very flat land, rubbing shoulders with surprisingly steep hills. Far from being mountains, these hills still add texture and beauty to what might otherwise be bland flatlands.

Sweeping curves of shorn wheatfields hug the lay of the land like a low flying helicopter navigates the nap of the earth. Though more beautiful when fully ripe and waving in a breeze, sometimes scattered with purple blooming vetch just as green turns to gold, the stubble left behind by harvest boasts its own rustic charm.

The light of the lowering sun diffuses among the leaves of wooded areas to render the scene into a paintinglike image.

While that same light throws geometric patterns across the rolling field.

The entire vista looks as if it’s viewed from the porch of a rustic home in the country. It would be easy to imagine I’ve been visiting relatives to enjoy this beautiful, peaceful, and quiet place that invites thought and memory. That’s actually very true, though not in the way I’ve described. While there is no porch, this is a place to be near my family. These photographs are of the views from the edge of the cemetery where my parents are buried. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins are all gathered there, where when the wind blows just right particles of rich soil from the farm we all loved fly across the creek and fields and bird-sheltering trees to bring a little bit of home to the place that now shelters them all.

The rapid rise in development of artificial intelligence and all its ramifications is fascinating. The potential for the betterment of mankind in its many advancements is boundless. But everything has to start somewhere. 

As a longtime user of smart devices, I’ve been feeling I have a front row seat in the entertaining horror show that is autocorrect.  Emails, tweets, blog posts…they all are enhanced by or fall victim to this oh so useful tool of the technological age. Sometimes I fear the cyberworld at large will think I suffer from some heretofore unknown form of illiteracy. Or worse. At times it could seem a gibbering idiot has gotten loose and launched into an undecipherable tweet storm. 

Yes, I do proofread. With autocorrect diligence is immaterial. I’m noticing more and more that that handy dandy ubiquitous tool has gone behind my back and made “corrections” after I’ve finished with a sentence. By finished with I mean already corrected autocorrect and moved on. Only after I need to go back for some reason to reread a sentence do I find bizarre gibberish that has nothing to do with what I think I’ve written. This can be particularly annoying as a writer, because it drags me way, way out of whatever world be it dark dystopian or fairy and unicorn otherworldliness I happen to be inhabiting at that moment. Try regaining your train of thought, after coming across half a sentence that looks like it was written by the dreaded BEM. 

While for a long time this whole thing was a minor annoyance of infrequent occurrence, I’ve become much more acutely aware of it this past month, since I started writing a story on my tablet. I was having trouble writing, after my mom’s death. Eventually, I thought it might help to be able to just pick up my tablet any time the urge struck and write whatever was willing to come out. That’s turned out to be a really great idea. I can be writing that way, while I would still be waiting for my laptop to be ready to go. I’ve kept up a steady stream of writing every day since April 10th. Even though I’m a little worried about taking the formatting to my laptop when I’m finished with the first draft, hopefully the fact that I managed it in an early experiment means it won’t be too horrible a format wrangling quagmire, even for Glitcherella.

The only real problem is the word processor app’s autocorrect. It has an unusually aggressive tendency to over correct. I know, I know they all do. This one, though, is extremely eager to help, changing words after I think its shenanigans have been reined in. On a particular problem area, anyway. Sometimes precious plotting on the fly seconds are lost, while I try to decipher what I’d originally written. At times there is zero resemblance to my own word or words, and I may not be able to even recall what I’d actually written, if enough wordage has passed. This is not good in Writerworld.

The most bizarre instance has to be when I recently typed the word wonderful. I went back to check something and found this: worth knob fearful! What? Literally. Not just a flip exclamation, but a sincerely confused, shocked, and frustrated cry to the writing gods for enlightenment. I knew I had not typed such a meaningless clutch of words. I didn’t remember on the spot what I had typed, and had to find context so I could reconstruct the sentence. Time wasted. Head briefly exploded. Regather former train of thought. Move on.

Done.

It’s not easy, however, to completely stop the boggling of mind whenever I think of it. I mean, that particular instance of autocorrect insanity is relatively innocuous. No harm done. But what about the future? Robotics is rapidly becoming a major part of our world. Will we be able to overcome the frustrations and foibles of an auto corrected life? Or do we face something much more concerning? Will our future be worth knob fearful?

What an amazing thing to stumble across in the middle of the night. I found it on Twitter, so why am I surprised? This video of blooming flowers set to music is breathtaking. An artistic flower lover’s dream, it perfectly displays the intricate, delicate beauty we sometimes take for granted. We are moved from unfolding flowers to the New York City skyline to the stars. A spellbinding treat for often jaded minds….and hearts…and, yes, even souls.

http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/spring-timelapse-flowers-blooming?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=atlas-page

Every time I think I will never see a more beautiful piece of art glass, I am surprised by a vision of color, design, and artistic grace. 

My love of Italian Glass, gorgeous objects, and of course all things purple led to this vase coming home with me as a gift to myself. It was a bit pricier than my usual finds, but it was on sale and irresistible. I would probably have bought it anyway, because it’s such a life enhancer to own things that make us happy every time we look at them. 

Some stories are so sad and poignant that they’re still painful a century later. This beautiful little baby was my mom’s sister, Reva Vernell.

I don’t know when the picture was taken, but I found her birth date in an old Bible. She was born on November 24, 1914, so she was five years older than my mom. The date of her death was on another page, August 18, 1916. Her little life wasn’t even two years long, but here I am today in 2017, remembering an aunt I never knew, a sister my mom didn’t know. As was the rest of her family, Aunt Vernell was well loved all the same.

Though old and faded, this is one of my favorite pictures of my grandmother. Of course she was elderly when I knew her, but I’ve heard so many stories about her that it seems as if I was a part of her entire life. 

The one story that is absolutely haunting, though not in a supernatural sense, is that Grandmother said that after little Vernell died, it felt as if she still pulled at her skirts as she went about her household chores. It’s so vivid in my imagination (I almost typed “memory”)…the lovely little toddler, clinging to her pretty Edwardian mother’s skirt, wanting to be close to her always. I can also imagine that Grandmother must have gone to bed crying many nights, after her baby died. They never knew exactly what caused her death. She was in agony from stomach pain. It could have been appendicitis. There was even some thought that perhaps she swallowed a little peach pit. That was a time still in the early stages of medical diagnostics, which left many illnesses a mystery. That uncertainty must have made the loss even more unbearable. 

My grandparents had two more girls (Pearl and Sarah) and three boys (George, Billy, and Earl), but losing Vernell after too short a time surely left a sad, empty place in their family. And their hearts.

​I should know by now that something amazing may be encountered at any time. Shopping is a particular activity that provides opportunities for random fascinating conversations. Once, among the treasures of a Macy’s purse sale, a woman noticed my subtle Phantom of the Opera T-shirt and struck up a conversation about the musical, different versions, Michael Crawford, Broadway in general, and eventually my obsession with all things Wicked. Best Buy was host to a chance conversation with a young army veteran who worked there. We both enjoyed exchanging tales of foreign travel and historical landmarks so much that he would subsequently spot me across the store and come over to resume our conversation, as if it hadn’t been weeks since our last encounter. And a handicapped man at Walmart once told me about his sad, courageous life, obviously a very rare occurrence, spurred into an unfamiliar need for a sympathetic ear after a car almost ran him down in the parking lot. A simple shopping trip can lead to memories that become woven into the fabric of daily life.

Yesterday, I stumbled into a conversation with a sales girl at Pier 1, while lamp shopping. As random discussion will, it started simply, with my love of art glass. Eventually it wound around to some of the cool glass I’m finding among my mother’s things, from Depression Glass, to antiques, to very old photographs. My century old badly faded image of my maternal grandmother, in Edwardian attire complete with a giant hat similar to the awesome ones I was dazzled by in the movie Howards End, tends to trump anything most people have in their family collections. Many modern families don’t even have more than a handful of old pictures, if that. The woman I met had what will probably be the greatest antique photograph story I’ll ever hear.

I mentioned that many people find my mom’s stories of her life fascinating, since she lived through so much history. When I said she was born just a few years after the Titanic sank, this articulate and intelligent young woman quietly stated that more than one of her ancestors were on the Titanic. One of them was a member of the orchestra that famously accompanied the doomed ship on her tragic swansong. A particularly poignant event that’s become a point of consternation among those deeply interested in the fated first and last voyage of the most famous ship in history was that the orchestra member’s wife was charged for his lost uniform. Imagine being informed that your beloved lost spouse’s company uniform must be paid for…as it was lost to the depths of the sea. These are parts of the story I’ve heard about in countless TV documentaries. It was breathtaking to talk about them as someone’s family memories.

People Who Died on the Titanic

​Aimee Mann is one of my all time favorite singer songwriters. According to my taste and experience, she’s never done any bad music. I didn’t discover her until her solo career, but enjoy her ‘Til Tuesday days too. The combination of her voice, lyrics, and melodies has run through my mind like a stream moving as fast as she can produce albums. 

Some music inspires my fiction way more than the rest. Aimee Mann’s has been known to help me generate plot almost faster than I can keep up with it. Some of the best scenes I’ve ever written are connected to her work on the Magnolia Soundtrack and most of all, Bachelor No. 2, or the Last Remains of the Dodo. The latter is my favorite of her albums, and Mental Illness reminds me of it quite a bit. Drenched in strings that are the perfect companions to guitar and piano, Mental Illness is lavishly melodic. She also displays her wonderful ability with often subtle vocal acrobatics. 

Mental Illness strikes me as Dodo’s charming older sister. Containing several waltzes and her usual complex lyrics, this album is amazing and quickly became the kind of thing I have to keep listening to at odd moments. Especially when the unusual, catchy, and beautiful Goose Snow Cone pops into my head. I looked up what it’s about. Turns out Goose is a cat she knows, who also stars in the sweet video. This one is going to keep me listening, as I wait for whatever comes next from Aimee Mann.