Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Color of Your Past

What color brings to mind your past?

When I was really little, I shared a bedroom with my grandmother who lived with us until her death. The room was painted what I think they called rose, but was really more of a vivid salmon pink. She loved that color, that of the roses her Norwegian logger husband gave to her before an accident in the woods, the weight of the world falling down. Doctors could do nothing for such internal injuries so they brought him home to quietly bleed out, there beneath her tears. She was just 36 years old and had three children. She never remarried.

As a kid I hated that color.  It certainly didn't match my G.I. Joe action fort I'd built in the corner of the room. I swore if I ever had my own place it would NEVER have a pink room.
A couple short years after Grandma passed away Dad stated stated that my room needed repainting, (Yay!)  I asked if I could paint it and maybe paint a rainbow on it (hey, I was in 6th grade). He said yes, but he was only going to buy the base color. Anything else I did to it, I'd have to use what was in the garage of the leftover paint.

I chose yellow. Let's just say there wasn't much to pick from for the rainbow which is why there remains to this day (though the yellow has been painted over), two rainbows, a half one behind the bed, and a full one on the other side made out of 70's yellow, gold and aqua and yes, the remainder of the horrid salmon pink. Dad refuses to paint over them and surprisingly, when he had his kitchen fire, my room was the only one closed off to the point it had no smoke damage.
There is no accounting for taste in color. When Brigid Jr. and her husband bought their first home, the price was a steal given the area, which was quite upscale, but for a good reason. Some of the walls were painted black (the rest seemed to be covered in those press on mirrors). Bits of the back yard looked like it had been torched, and the carpet inside was damp enough with spilled beer that you could probably grow wild rice in the living room. It had been some young hipster's bachelor pad (or Darth Vader's, we're still not sure). Now it is painted white and varying shades of blue, with three stories of glass that look out onto the Rockies, the walls seemingly joining the sky.

I'd say that if I had a favorite color, it would still be yellow, the color of butter, of daisies, and the sun that makes you weep as you look into it. Yet, there are other colors that bring back memories. The Range living room is this antique looking sage green.  It could stand with a redo, but the color will remain the same, I think, as I go to the paint store to look at samples.
It's the color of my parents living room, not the green of the apples in the tree in the backyard, that hung low over the limbs we'd hang from like monkeys.  It's not the deep grey green  swirl of a river full of steelhead.  It was more of the aromatic sage of something wonderful coming from the oven; the laughter of Mom and Grandma in the kitchen; the recipe born of white paper and cursive script.  It's those smells that make you weep for the lost colors of childhood.

In looking through all the little squares of paint at the store, I think to myself that we always seem to associate scent with certain periods of our lives, but how about color?

There, in one display, are the rich vivid hues of sunrise. That takes me back to my last  time camping out in the woods, watching the sunrise from my spot underneath a tree.  At first there is only darkness, the colors of the starless night, of a deep ocean crossing, the sky then gathering a bit of light in the depths, like the eyes of Jesus that look down on us from a cross on the wall, eyes that show no age as they show no forgetting.
The first hint of day is red, the royal blue-red, that in centuries past would have been forbidden to be worn by the masses, on threat of death, then oranges and yellows, dripping like forgotten fruit into the horizon, their taste and texture, fragrant and lush against the plate of the earth. Pink and white, the color of salt water snails found in the submerged sands of paradise, washed clean of their prison. Then finally blue, just a hint of blue, paler even than the bluest sky I remember from my last time aloft, just a hint of blue, fading, for into the sky comes the weather, thick clouds pulled up by the still slumbering earth to cover it and keep it warm.

Before the the sun could even warm the earth, warm me, blue grey gave way to grey, like the whole of Lee's army taking on the battle between dusk and dawn.  The blood red of the sunrise leaches into the earth until the world goes suddenly and softly grey again.  The clouds mourn and the birds sound an echo of taps up in the trees, as I sit and remember a battle of my own, tracing invisible scars of it upon soft skin.

Then, there in another section of the paint store are the blues and greys.
In the Spring of my childhood, after the winter cold and snow retreated, Mom and I would head outdoors, just the two of us, along the shores of local bodies of water looking for stones, stones that may have not been unearthed for years, abundant embedded in earth and sand. They're quiet treasures on the shores of the the West, wind swept lands riddled with unclaimed treasures that people simply pass and forget, not knowing what they have underneath their feet. Beneath this great land lies jeweled richness of stone, and prehistoric bones, telling tales as they surface, dotting the future with pieces of the past.

Some stones are so tiny as to be little bearings of smoothness, the size of a small birds egg. Others take both hands to hold. My Mom as well, was fascinated by stones, and we'd search through the grey and dark and cold surfaces looking for the one that will break open into glorious color of gemstone. Rich colors forged in heat and fire and fate. We'd hunt down an agate, and knowing what we will find inside of it, we'd smile.

In native Indian culture agates were believed to cure the stings of scorpions and the bites of snakes, soothe the mind, prevent contagion, still thunder and lightning, promote eloquence, secure the favor of the powerful, and bring victory over enemies. In this agate, Mom might not find a cure for the stinging bite of what she has within her that was too soon to take her life, but in it she found strength and beauty, swirling colors of joy in that moment, something to sooth the thunder that rolled through her in dark frightened moments.

She hand picked them, and cataloged them by color and origin. I happily worked with her, capturing the deep energy of the earth, that grounded her to us.

Then, there are the reds, the color that is the crowning head of birth, the liquid grace in a gold chalice. It is color, that like blood, has as many variances as does the way it can be spilled, there in a flash of light, a burning, a blow, one instant of sublimation, then darkness again. It is the color of the senses, the depth of rose, the scent of meat, the taste of a lovers whisper, a torrent of red wine, of desire and loss.

For red is also the color of warning, the flash of a light at the approach end of the runway that tells you if you are too high or too low. Such lights glare with luminous boding of the nearness of earth, the red and white lights that slide across the night itself, speaking aloud with silent sound to eyes that sometimes see what the soul cannot.
You took in those colors and process them with a quick movement of hands, as your aircraft bears down upon the earth, holding in check, the vast mass of weight and gravity as long as you can, until the engines pant as if breathless, the power brought back in the last second as the wheels kiss the pavement.  Sometimes at that point you are breathless yourself, as the white centerline lights lead you gently in.

I think of that bright white as I look through the second of white paint. The section of samples of white is bigger than one expects, ranging from Casper the Friendly Ghost pale to rich cream, from the crystal purity of light that sparks off of a diamond ring to the wood scented smoke that is Fall. White brings to mind snow; not the snow of the ground, but the snow aloft, where thick water droplets the size of guppies give way to a thick white spray that parts as we fly through it in waves of frigid courtesy.
On such a flight we fly in silence, but for the occasional chirp of a radio, our movements in sync. Today, they'd call that CRM.  Back then we sort of worked in some sort of unspoken telepathy that was both trust and history aloft,  like two birds that leave a guy wire at exactly the same time. Our hands move in a silent prayer of ritual without words, a communion of motion and metal.

Flying on a clear night, one gets the sense that movement stops as if your ship is hung suspended from the stars with no forward progress. But when the snow hits, if the moon is bright enough, you have a sense of speed that is the wild leap of a toboggan off a hill.  As the miles trail behind us like wake, we look out into the snow much as we did as children, mentally sticking our tongues out to catch a flake and let it melt, looking through the windshield with a sort of hushed searching for something so far beyond us, we can't as yet grasp it. It's a look that's both the wonder of the unknown and knowledge that is profoundly intent, time slowing down even at .82 Mach.

We had command of millions of dollars worth of steel, and a mission. But in that moment, we were simply children, our craft not burdened with time's dragging weight which the old garb themselves with each day, but with the unfettered fast movement that are those lost moments of play out in a snow covered field.
Color is memory, and memory vivid color.  One may bring back the other yet neither will ever be exactly what they were. It's like an ancient recipe scribbled on frail paper, the letters faded, even if the intent is clear, familiar in form and sense, the name and presence of elusive and sentient forces of grain and yeast, water and love, a taste and smell that you can recreate, yet it will never be exactly the same. Yet, even if it is not the same, the shape, the faint taste, brings you back.

It comes back to you at odd times, sometimes when going full tilt into your day; sometimes as you sit in quiet reflection, a resonant distant hum of the dog sleeping beside you.  The colors around you have a spent quality, like the rise of dissipating smoke, of the steam of an ancient engine, even as they softly gleam with light, pushing from their solitude into yours, nudging that memory of the past.  It's a past that can be cold and vacant or warm with color.  It's all how your soul sees what your eyes sometimes cannot.
I think of my Dad now, moving across his bedroom floor in bare, cold feet, the room nearly empty, but thunderous with the presence of my Mom.  I remember the day he first opened her closet after she was gone, to see the remnants of her existence in colorful pieces of cloth, in those favorite colors of agates, blues, and black obsidian and ivory, blues and golds, discovered like gemstone when that door was broken open. How vivid the look on his face as he found them. Not a look of grief, or incomprehension, but a look of fierce affirmation that she had been here, that she had loved him. A look of recognition, of the subtle, complex beauty that she left us - her spouse, her children.

As the sun comes up early this morning, I sit with my bread and coffee. Down the hall is a salmon pink bathroom that was the favorite color of a young Swedish woman who was the love of someone's life before she was my Grandma.  It could be redone right now, but it won't be.

It sits as proudly in morning light as my Grandmother did, in the bright glare of grief where shadows not only defined and became personal, but formed and shaped her unexpected destiny. I'd like to paint it yellow, and someday I will.  But for now it remains.  She loved that color and so, for that moment in the past, that memory, I let it lay upon the walls in peace.

- Brigid

Monday, July 24, 2017

From Russia With Love

Little Prince lived alone on a tiny planet no larger than a house. . 

The suitcase is empty, but it is not. There in the bottom, a small piece of paper with some writing on it.  I read it and I smile.

The bag's opened up, some toiletries spread around the hotel bathroom.  Another day on the road.  I guess the wandering spirit runs in my blood, passed on my from Air Force father to me. Seems like ever since I got a control yoke in my hand I've been wandering across miles of land, across rivers and towns in whatever way I can, be it dromedary-like transport plane, raggedly land rover or sway back mule.

I have an anchor, over time it's been a large house, a small house, it's been simply a suitcase and someone I love.  But when I'm there, I am thoroughly happy, for that anchor, instead of being a confinement, is simply the base from which I move, a fulcrum that amplifies the effects of my motion, the beat of my heart.

St. Expurey said, "He who would travel happily must travel light". And so I did, the earliest memories little more than the remembered feel of the starched uniform shirt I wore, the dense oily smell of jet fuel lingering on the tongue like smoke. It seems as if all my early years were reflected in the window of those moving airplanes. I see my reflection, my past, through bug splayed glass that tinted the world bright.
The airplane, the destination and the years changed, as did the landscape of my career, but some thing things never changed. Days in an airplane traveling far. Miles and hours spent watching the landscape, silver grain elevators, red winged birds, mountains formed of ice and fluid need, and rivers without borders, all blending into a bright diorama of life racing past. The world looks different from above, clouds massive and dark, looming up like a target in a gun sight, looking twice the size of an ordinary man.

I have spent a half of my life it seems, on the way to somewhere. I have watched a hundred cumulus clouds erupt, the mass assassination of mayflies and the disappearance of a slice of cherry pie at a tiny airport diner and the journey was only beginning.
In each day comes another opportunity for adventure. The ride to the hotel was something to remember, in and of itself. A shuttle service, stopping at several hotels on the way. The driver, sullen and demonstrating why driving was his second language. You know how when most people drive, certainly professional drivers, they brake using an increase in pressure on the brake pedal so as to come to a smooth stop. Not Mr. Shuttle. The only brake technique he used was to stomp on the brake, let up, let the car roll, stomp again. It would take four or five of these stomps to equal one normal braking action. No traffic, heavy traffic, it made no difference.

I started to feel like a bobble head doll and the 25 dollars I saved over a taxi was starting to look like one of those small decisions that had great, oversized repercussions. But perhaps I should have been more patient. I guess it was hard to concentrate on braking when one is texting while driving in heavy traffic.

I simply made sure my seatbelt was fastened and then bent down as if into a stiff wind, horns of the impatient exploding into the rain-split asphalt that opened and closed with opportunity. Like all traffic in big cities, we carried on, sharp with speed, and then trickling to a standstill, the road dipping into the fog, like a hand cleaving water, the headlights showing the gray bulk of streams of cars coming down the hill like rain.
When the last guest got off and it was just me, he quit texting and had a series of increasingly heated exchanges in his mother tongue with his dispatcher about how he only got  the equivalent of 47 US dollars in fares for this trip and he wanted to get a number one spot when he got back to the airport. (Actually, sir, you got 68 dollars in fares, one that you did not log and pocketed. I notice things like that.)

The arguing got more heated. I am not fluent in languages. I can simply listen and relate small things in a number of languages that come in handy, Russian, Chinese, Farsi, just enough to know when it's a good time to get out of Dodge or when happy hour is almost over. It comes in handy, the knowing, the looking, I think, as I catch quick glimpses of other drivers in the failing sunlight, faces fixed and grim as they fought to get upstream.
The van driver, still yelling into the phone while almost whacking several people on bicycles,  finally stopped in front of my hotel. I paid him the fare plus a 15 percent tip. He did NOT look happy, expecting much more from the American Redhead in nice clothes.

He muttered something under his breath about what he had to do to get a big tip, and I replied -

"Вам надо научиться использовать торможения."

He was still standing there, mouth agape when I went up to my suite.

But I had arrived. The hotel bulked long and dark against the city sky, but inside was golden warmth, a bite of a fresh apple, a much-needed bottle of water. Sitting still for a minute taking care of the aching neck and soon it was time to meet my partner for this assignment while we went over notes for tomorrow's business over a light meal.

After a short walk back to the hotel, my partner making sure I got to my room safely, I made a couple phone calls to loved ones, wanting to let them know I was in and safe. My Dad always worries when I travel, even when I can't tell him where I'm going.  So do friends, and I try and keep in touch. Then I took a long bath in a tub so deep you could hide a Mastodon in it and slept until it was 6:30 in the morning. Unfortunately, it was 6:30 in the morning where I wanted to be, not where I was at.

So I got up and made coffee and watched a stain of light snare itself between steel and rain, spreading until the stain grew light and the light became morning.
By choice or not, travel is part of my life.  But travel brings something to you that people who live in the insular world of their home town their whole lives may miss. It pushes your boundaries. When you travel, you can become invisible, if that is what you choose. I like that. I like to be the quiet observer. Walking alone along the edge of another ocean, as it stretches away into space with its illusion of freedom. Strolling through the celestial hush of a square that has seen generation after generation, the sun glinting off marble where the monotonous rain has washed it bright. What stories would that old building tell, what makes these people who they are?

understanding a word around you the language becomes simply a musical background for watching the water flow onto the shore or a leaf blowing in the wind, calling nothing from you.

You may have work that takes much of your time, yet still, in this strange place, there are hours open to you.  You don't have a lawn to mow or bills to pay.  There is only life, as simple and inescapable as an empty hallway, where you can leave behind for a moment, the burdens that you freely asume and carry as bright and ambitiously as brass. For this moment you are simply a creature of choice, free to visit stately buildings, savor a cup or coffee or simply go watch the trains.  You're open, if only for this moment, as a child to receive all of the world, not just your own.

It is all there for the taking, multicolored flowers in bright density, the smell of fresh bread baking, laid out like fabric on the ground which you pick up and wrap around you, drawing in a breath through the scented cloth. This fabric, this essence of a place, that contains both the dead and the living, the blooms of lush flower, the decay of a building, the smells that are both the death and the birth of a city. You are a historian, you are a hunter free to explore and seek and find and then return home bringing memories to lay on your doorstep.


From the memories come words.  They may be only in your head, they may be on paper.  But they tell a story, one composed of past journeys on ancient rails washed clean by wind and rain and tempered by time, written to the mournful sound of a train whistle echoing through ancient memories and newfound dreams.  The words strung out like cars, beyond which wait the world and life, hope unrestrained and incontrovertible.  They recall the memory of it all, moving fast now, wind rushing past like flood, leaving you breathless.

The suitcase is open on a simple wooden stand. It is empty, but in it there is so much, the smell of crushed sage as I bounced across the desert in a jeep, the wood smoked burnt woods of autumn, the smell that is untouched ground after a rain, the rich earthy scent of something being lit that had for so long been cold.

 Love - Brigid

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sunday Eats - Easy Buttery Yeast Rolls

For my best friend Stephanie (who makes the best bread on the planet) a 1-hour bowl to table yeast roll. You can make them together in a pan or put in a muffin tin for a slightly different shape (cooking time might be slightly less)

I'd be willing to bet you have most of the ingredients in your house already.

Easy Buttery Yeast Rolls

1 cups water
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon active-dry yeast (this is slightly more than 1 packet)
3.5 to 4 cups all-purpose flour (a 1/4 cup extra if needed)
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Grease a 9 x 13-inch pan with cooking spray, and set aside.

The rolls are for me, right mom?

In a microwave-safe bowl, whisk together warm water (NOT hot) and melted butter until combined.
Stir in the milk and honey.  Then microwave for 1 minute 15 seconds, or until the mixture is very warm to the touch (it should be 110°F).  Test it, whisk and re-heat in 15-second additional intervals if needed until the mixture is warm enough.
Pour the water mixture into the large bowl of a stand mixer (I used my Cuisinart with the little plastic paddle attachment) then sprinkle the yeast on top, and give it a quick stir to combine.  Wait for five minutes, or until the yeast is foamy. Add in 3.5 cups of flour, and the salt.  Then using the dough-hook (or paddle) mix on medium-low speed or pulse on and off until combined. (note if the dough sticks to the side of the bowl, add in 1/4 cup flour at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides and is only SLIGHTLY sticky to the touch).

You're looking for no more than 4 and 1/4 cups of flour total.

Form the dough into a ball with your hands and transfer it to a greased bowl.  If it is still slightly sticky, lightly dust a cutting board with flour and just knead it gently 4-5 times rather than work it extra with the bread hook. Cover with a damp towel or paper towel, and let rise for 15 minutes in a warm room (if you have your a.c. running that will not work, put it in the oven with the light on),

Gently punch the dough down and divide into 12-15 equal-sized pieces.(I use 12) Form each piece into a ball  (with clean, dry and floured hands) and place evenly in the prepared pan.  Cover the pan, and let rise for an additional 20 minutes (again, if the room is air conditioned, put the rolls in the oven to rise 15 minutes  - then preheat the oven after removing rolls).

Bake 15 minutes, or until lightly golden brown on top and cooked through. Remove and brush with extra butter.  Serve warm with honey.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Goldilocks and the Three Berettas

Goldilocks goes to the gun store to select a pistol for self defense.  The sales representative shows her several models in different sizes to look at.

"This gun is too big!" she exclaimed.
So she picked up the second gun
"This gun is too big, too!"  she whined.
So she tried the last and smallest gun
"Ahhh, this gun is just right," she sighed.

But when confronted later by the angry bear, the tiny round only pissed it off, and the bear ate Goldilocks.

MORAL OF THE STORY, for primary self defense, bigger is better.

(and bears who live on porridge are going to be hungry).

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Let it Be Borne

As Daniel Webster stated - “Let it be borne on the flag under which we rally in every exigency, that we have one country, one constitution, one destiny”.

The flag is not a piece of cloth intended to be worn as a necktie, bikini or an outfit for your wiener dog. It is a sacred symbol of a nation. A representation of a promise of freedom. Freedom to life and liberty. The freedom for the law abiding citizen to protect their family and what they hold dear. Freedom to work hard and prosper and enjoy the fruits of your honest labor without fear that it will be forced from you to support the degradation of the Constitution. The flag is more than fabric, it's a promise. I am an American, and I will honor the flag, wrapping myself around it as a patriot would, to protect it, not wrapping it around words or actions to justify that which we know to be a breach of this promise. - Brigid

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Thankful Thursday - Small Town Roads



I just got an email that my latest book, Christian Fiction "Small Town Roads" was awarded FIVE Stars by Readers Favorite Reviews and is entered in their yearly literary award contest for 2017.  (The Book of Barkley Won Silver for Non Fiction two years ago).

I couldn't be happier as everyone said "don't write Christian Fiction, people want books like 50 Sheds of Gray (seriously, who is interested in sheds?)


or vampires and spaceships!"

Here's the review.

"Small Town Roads is a Christian literary fiction novel depicting the lives and reflections of small-town inhabitants. Evelyn, Harry, and Ruby have outlived their spouses and remain in the same homes and neighborhood. They have been friends for many decades. Rachel lost her brother to cancer, her mother to Alzheimer's and then her father passed away, leaving her the only surviving member of her family, outside of her elderly aunt, Ruby. Now, several years later, after Rachel has finished her schooling for her four-year degree in criminology, her aunt Ruby is also gone and has left her home to Rachel. Rachel moves into her aunt's home and takes a job in the local police department. Alone and a newcomer in the area, Rachel befriends her Aunt Ruby's old friends and neighbors, Evelyn and Harry. Taking care of her ill and dying family members had put Rachel's life on hold. With a home of her own, new job and new friends, can life get any better?

Small Town Roads by LB Johnson is an eloquent Christian novel portraying the introspection of a community. This literary work is a lovely depiction of the characters' thoughts and motivations, although there is no action and the story can seem to move slowly. The author has a wonderful grasp of the English language, and her words flow together smoothly, creating a beautifully formed sermon. Rachel's and Evelyn's reminiscences and musings about life and faith are almost poetic. Despite their ages and generations, each of the characters portrayed displays their personal and spiritual growth, providing a thought-provoking and insightful story. It was encouraging to see Rachel's faith progress and blossom. This is an inspirational novel that will please those who enjoy reading meaningful Christian-based, faith-inspired books. Five Stars."

Amazon link is here:  http://amzn.to/2tkIbSm

Thanks to  my amazing editor Stephanie Martin and to my readers and friends who have supported it  Since it was published the week the blog shuttered when the first threat showed up, sales were abysmal at first, but starting to roll as Christian bookstores are finding it.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day to those of you who still drop in here.

Today's post is over at

 if you wish a read about the true meaning of this day (and it's not barbecue and a day off).