character study

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The grove of pecan trees had been planted generations earlier, long before Hodge was born in the shelling shed to Esperanza, who left him there when it was time to move on with the crew to pick the next farm. His mother gave him his first name, although he never used it. Also, the umber cast to his skin that set him apart in Missouri in 1927.

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From Grigg Hamblin, Hodge would inherit the land where the trees had been set out in orderly rows along the floodplain.

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From the trees, he got both a living and an identity. As if he’d been bred for it, and perhaps he was, Hodge was the special kind of being that is a pecan farmer. Atop sturdy, straight legs, he was mostly trunk supporting a thick V of shoulders, muscles knotting his arms down to long fingers. A head of nut-brown curls went uncut during the harvest season when he didn’t even bother to return to the house at night.

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Arizona Hodges Hamblin belonged only to the trees, and that’s how it went until he was almost 30.

© 10/18

selfy-promotion

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I’m storytelling in Cromarty Courthouse Garden, June 23, 2018.

Last month I was invited to read from my own work at the Cromarty Courthouse Museum Garden during Garden Opening Weekend (see photo) in this beautiful village on the Black Isle of Scotland. I’ve written a lot about Cromarty–a search of this blog will reveal that. But I am rarely paid to write in my own voice for my own reasons. Instead, my clients commission me to write, ghostwrite, edit, develop and doctor their books. It’s incredibly satisfying work, especially when my clients are as amenable as David Bland whose book (working titled provided below) is going to change the world. What a privilege to participate in his story.

I felt the same with about ghosting Dr. William Reed’s memoirs, The Pulse of Hope, and every other client I’ve had (see http://www.seavercreative.com).

Vivien, Leeanne and WAR at launchVivien Jennings of Rainy Day Books with William Reed and me, November 2014.

Promoting myself professionally is always awkward for me, so I just avoid it. Every client I’ve had has come to me word of mouth, which is good because I wouldn’t have the first inclination to get out there and find them. But if I did, it would probably be wise to post something like a client testimonial, so here goes:

Leeanne is, to me, much like a sculptor. Underneath the rough layers of my long-winded prose was a much better writer. Leeanne carefully and gently chipped away at that outer layer to reveal the story-teller below. My writing became crisper, clearer, and more purposeful. And I never felt berated, belittled or embarrassed. Try as I might, I could never find fault with her criticism and her suggestions were always on the mark, which is maddening, of course. Every time I sat upon my high horse Leeanne exposed the puny pony I was atop. In a very nice way. It is a rarity to find someone who can both find fault and suggest remedies. We all know the critic who offers nothing better. Leeanne supplies thoughtful criticism and insightful suggestions.

She took care with my work. She honored the time and energy I had spent, and she never diminished the pride I had in my writing. But she showed me where it could be better. That is a powerful talent.

~ David Bland, Author
Smudge: The Narrative Economics of Indian Country
Washington DC, 10 July 2018

What’s in a Name

dancing shoesCurrently editing my client’s book about 30 years in Indian Country (after 30 years growing close as family to a tribe, you get to say Indian Country, I’m told). Loved this story:
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When I first met Dani Not Help Him, I asked about her surname: Not Help Him. I assumed that it was a name depicting someone who had somehow been shamed and not deserving of help. I did not understand “Not Help Him,” so I asked Dani to explain the meaning. She told me that the surname is derived from members of one of the warrior societies among the Lakota comprised of men who were destined to be the first line of defense against invaders or other tribes who might raid or battle the Lakota.

A warrior designated as Not Help Him was said to be so brave and so dedicated to the safety of the village that he would lay down his life for the tribe or village and nobody was supposed to help him as he performed his sacred duties to protect the village. She said that some Not Help Him warriors would go so far as to sink a stake into the ground and have another warrior lash their leg to it so that they could not retreat in the face of certain death. You were not to help him, Dani explained, because his death was in furtherance of the protection of his people. Just thinking of this, the dignity, the courage, and the generosity of these warriors brings a lump to my throat, to this day.

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*(The man with the drum is a Nottawaseppi (the people who can hear the river) singer. This tribe has lived for generation upon generation in the Michigamme/Michigan: the place where food grows on water–a reference to wild rice. If I had a picture of a Lakota Not Help Him, I’d use it. My pictures are from Pow Wows in the Michigamme and markets and mountains in New Mexico where I love to walkabout listening with my lenses.)

What an incredible name. I had to see if I could find Dani Not Help Him by GTS (google that shit). I couldn’t, but I did find this obituary with a name even more incredible: http://www.lakotacountrytimes.com/news/2014-04-24/The_Holy_Road/Marie_Theresa_Not_Help_HimFox_Belly.html

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omission statement

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I want to be a farmer of words…strictly organic…knowing each word I’ve planted will produce something sustainable.  I want to master the husbandry of words…know what it takes for them to grow strong and viable, to see words sprouting in a field that I have made ready…to know which to cull and which to feed.  I would rain on them from porch swings or Paris, fertilize them with prayer and presence.

I want to be a mad scientist of words…an anthropologist of words…and spend some time as alphabet-sous chef to William Least Heat Moon.

I want to put on a little lace camisole, a short ruffly skirt and some well-worn cowboy boots and go out dancing with words…in the French Quarter to a Doobie’s cover band…I want to taste Jack & Coke on the mouth of words…words against my neck…words that have a houseboat right on the river, not far from here…words in rivulets…

I want to be a field surgeon of words…the triage of words…able to keep somebody alive with words alone.

I want to debate words at Oxford and win.

But I will remain a recluse in a cabin on the Lesser Slave Lake of words…to be found a few months after I’ve died…to be posthumously unpublished, famously unknown.

Leeanne’s Fish

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A fish there is

That swims across the canvas

Right to left

Bull-shit free

and bold

Beautiful and bereft

Of nothing

 

An admirably plain-speaking fish

This was a fish when time was

Famous in the Catacombs

When the Christ was spoken of

Only in whispers

 

It wears its glory lightly

Down at the mouth, yes,

But don’t be fooled

Leeanne’s fish glows contented

In its own shimmering skin

It’s candid iridescence

Eases without ego

 

The dull water in which it swims

Into the background.

 

 

~ my friend, the musician and writer
Andrew Roddy, Gortehark, Donegal
Ireland on 17 September 2016 was inspired to
write this lovely little piece about my attempt
to paint a fish.

I love it entirely.

resolution

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Early on this brittlefrosted New Year’s Day, I tramped the frozen miles around the lake hills in my new hiking boots, working up a painful blister on a foot that had otherwise gone numb with cold. By the time my heel was too raw to go any further, I’d reached the spillway on the north end of the lake where the water plant was humming nearby.

The water plant worker wasn’t surprised to see me come in, in fact, he seemed glad. I sat down on the metal grate steps leading up to a tank of something smelling distinctly non-potable while he fetched the first aid kit. They weren’t real Bandaids, “I’m not sure what kind they are,” he said, holding out a handful of generic adhesive bandages. Those are called “plasters” in Scotland, a factoid I don’t share. In rural America, most minimum wage workers over the age of 40 don’t appreciate trivia about places they’ll never see.

For all I know, this guy, in spite of his menial job, might have seen plenty of places. But right now he was focused on a blister that looked like a boiled shrimp stuck to my Achilles tendon. “Looks real sore,” he said with concern. I tried tough . . . not saying anything like a stoic James Bond except for the stoic James Bond-part. Then, just to change the subject, I ask him if he’s made a New Year’s Resolution. In an end-of-third-shift voice, he shrugs Nah. I’m not that young anymore. You?

No, me neither, but I’m striving to be more grateful, I say. He nods thoughtfully and gives me some extra bandages to take, plus a water bottle. Do I need to use the phone? Want a cuppa coffee before I go? No thank you, but thank you….very much. I appreciate it, you’re very kind. I’ve got my gratitude game on.

Not a problem. A lot of people stop in for one reason or another, he reflects. Makes him feel good to help people. He gets lonely out here. One time this guy who was carrying his blind old dog that couldn’t walk anymore stopped in . . . long story, he said.     It was.

I guess a kind of humility finds us all in the end, which is the beginning of kindness . . . to others, to ourselves.

After I left, I walked and my foot didn’t hurt so much. I figured that I would make a resolution after all—to be willing to ask for help and to be more helpful. A lot of new things to be grateful for will come from such resolve, I thought. It felt worthy . . . both strong and weak like water.

I said it out loud to the dormant seeds in their milk pods and to the quiet forest beyond. An eagle circling in the sky hovered briefly above me, then flew higher than I could see . . . onto places none of us have ever seen.

© 1/1/16

the writer’s prayer

In the morning when the light falls like water

Over the words

Bless me and hear my calling

Over the words

Open my throat and untie the hard not

Over the words

Save me when I am deep in the well enough

When I am drowning in the desert

When I am diving in the dumpster

When I am mothing too close to the fire

When I falter when I fall into the water

over the words

~ Liana © 8/15

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Photo: K.Strejc Ginn