Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Give Back/Get Involved: Have an Action Plan

Sharing this simple personal action plan, one of many being shared on social media right now, for effective activism and volunteerism. Each of us can do something!:

1) Make a short list of the issues that are most important to you. Pick two or three. Each of us has different gifts. You can't do everything and be everywhere all the time.

2) Find local and national organizations that address these issues and connect with them on social media, join their mailing lists, and/or join the organizations.

3) Call your state senators weekly, or daily if possible, regarding these issues. Ask friends in swing states to do the same.

4) Be present if, when, and where you can be. Attend, organize, speak up, support, volunteer. Be a good friend and neighbor.

5) Donate $5 or more, here and there, to the issues and organizations you support.

6) Share your action items on social media, and any tangible results you witness, to help motivate others and support hope and progress. Sharing any good that you do is so inspirational.

7) Practice self-care. You can be an effective and empathic person without having to suffer.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Haiku #2: shrunken tumors

This week, I celebrate the beginning of my tenth year in remission:

shrunken tumors…
the sun-painted walls
of my childhood room

"shrunken tumors," copyright 2017 Amelia Cotter (first published in Acorn: a journal of contemporary haiku, 2011)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Poem #1: I Begin

A simple New Year's poem. This is a self-reflection exercise that anyone can do, using the phrases "I am" and "I begin" for inspiration:

I am...

I am pale
I am frazzled
I am delicate
I am stones just beneath the surface of the water
I am a bear
I am a whisper
I am an old candle, relit

I begin...

I begin at home
I begin within
I begin again
I begin the day
I begin this day

"I Begin," copyright 2017 Amelia Cotter

Monday, December 19, 2016

Ghost Story #2: Visit for the Holidays

While I was writing Maryland Ghosts: Paranormal Encounters in the Free State, my Uncle Bernie sent me more than 30 stories from throughout his life in the form of hand-written letters. After Maryland Ghosts was first published in 2012, and featured most of his Maryland stories, we turned his remaining letters into an unpublished collection to share with family and friends called The Haunted Letters: True Tales from a Ghost-Storied Life. Here is another one of my favorite stories from that collection:

Altoona, Pennsylvania (Blair County), 2010

It was December, the Christmas season of 2010, and I had returned from the grocery store, having shopped for all the gourmet items for our holiday feast.

When I grew up, one of the holiday treats on Mom and Dad’s dinner table relish tray was watermelon pickles. My father loved them, and he grew up in southern Virginia, where his family always made them from the thick skins of the "old day" watermelons.

I displayed all of my purchases on the kitchen counter for Debra to see, placing four jars of watermelon pickles on the far right end of the counter, near our cupboard.

I went to the refrigerator and as I opened, then closed, the door, I saw my father, Bernard Lee Masino, in that right corner by the counter, from the chest up only, a partial body formation.

Dad was looking down at the watermelon pickles, smiling, wearing his old wool orange and grey plaid shirt. He was visible for approximately ten seconds, then vanished into thin air.

What a nice spiritual visit to have for the holidays.

"Visit for the Holidays," copyright 2016 Bernard W. Masino and Amelia Cotter (first appeared in The Haunted Letters: True Tales from a Ghost-Storied Life, 2013)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ghost Story #1: Ma Ma Sarah

While I was writing Maryland Ghosts: Paranormal Encounters in the Free State, my Uncle Bernie sent me more than 30 stories from throughout his life in the form of hand-written letters. After Maryland Ghosts was first published in 2012, and featured most of his Maryland stories, we turned his remaining letters into an unpublished collection to share with family and friends called The Haunted Letters: True Tales from a Ghost-Storied Life. Here is one of my favorite stories from that collection:

Chatham, Virginia (Pittsylvania County), 1996

This story took place at our family’s plantation home inherited by my cousin, Taylor Lee Meadows. It was July 1996, and Debra and I had been dating since May 6, 1995. I wanted my Chatham family to meet her. This is the home of your grandfather’s sister, Aunt Dorothy (Aunt Dot), who will be 95 in November 2011!

This old tobacco farm is 400 acres in size, and the last tobacco crop was in 1985, and was also the best crop in the history of the Meadows Farm. The plantation was built by Hunt Meadows, Sr. and his wife, Sarah, in 1900.

I visited there often as a young boy and hunted the farm with my cousin Taylor as a teenager. I had also visited there in April 1969 on my way home from being discharged from active duty in the Marine Corps. I remember that Ma Ma Sarah, as Hunt Meadows’ wife was always called, made a nice family picnic for me on that visit, with southern cured ham, homemade apple pie from her apple tree, homemade peach ice cream from her peach trees, all of the fixings from her large garden (watermelon, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peas, corn on the cob), homemade biscuits with churned butter, sweet potato pie, black eyed peas, mashed potatoes with "red eye" gravy, deviled eggs, homemade jams and jellies, and watermelon pickles.

What a feast! We all ate like kings and queens. She had also made homemade iced tea for us, with crystal clear spring water from their spring—which had originally been used by the Shawnee Indians and is still in use today!

When Debra and I arrived in Chatham in July 1996, the entire family—all of my Meadows cousins, Taylor, Richard, Frankie, Bill, Sarah, and Aunt Dot—had a wonderful picnic again in Ma Ma Sarah’s honor. Hunt Meadows, Sr. had died in 1957, which was my first funeral, and Sarah died in 1976.

Debra and I also had the honor of staying in the plantation home with Taylor on that visit. We actually slept in Ma Ma Sarah and Hunt, Sr.’s bed, in their original bedroom.

It was approximately 5:15 a.m. the next morning, as the sun began to rise and shine through the drapes of the bedroom window. Debra was asleep, to my right, between me and the bedroom wall. As I looked at the sun coming through the bedroom window, I noticed a white figure of a woman to the left of the window, in the corner, beside the dresser.

We both stared at one another for a minute or so, Debra still asleep beside me. I did not want to startle her, or our visitor.

The form slowly drifted toward the windows and I could see "Ma Ma Sarah" as plain as day. She merged with the sunlight coming in through the window and was gone in an instant.

I felt good, not unnerved, about seeing her.

I could hear Taylor in the kitchen, so I rose from bed to greet him good morning. I shared with him what I had seen (well, who I had seen) only minutes earlier. He was pleased and noted that even though no one had seen a ghost in the old plantation home, several relatives had heard footsteps upstairs or felt the presence of someone touch or caress them.

Taylor and I then left to feed his cattle and stopped to drink from the old spring house, using an old dried gourd as our cup. The delicious water was crystal clear, so refreshing, and ice cold!

We did not share the news with Debra about the spirit until after she had fixed us a wonderful breakfast. After the breakfast dishes were washed and dried and put away, we sat her down in Taylor’s living room and told her about my experience. Debra was not at all upset about what had occurred. It had been 20 years since Ma Ma Sarah had passed away. I told Debra that I felt Sarah was curious about who was sleeping in her room, especially who the man was that was sleeping on her long-deceased husband’s side of the bed. And, when she recognized me, and knew I recognized her, she was at peace and left us to enjoy her lovely home.

Amelia, I have been back to that home countless times since that trip in 1996, and I have never had that experience again.

"Ma Ma Sarah," copyright 2016 Bernard W. Masino and Amelia Cotter (first appeared in The Haunted Letters: True Tales from a Ghost-Storied Life, 2013)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Haiku #1: resolutions

This haiku seems fitting with the holiday season coming hard on the heels of election season:

the snakeskin shed
in one piece

"resolutions," copyright 2016 Amelia Cotter (first published in Frogpond 36.2, 2013)

Monday, October 31, 2016

Story #1: The Red Run

Happy Halloween!

Here's a little flash fiction to help get the day off to a spooky start:

I stepped off the bus, the door squealing shut behind me as it took off. My feet touched the concrete and I was struck by the smell of crisp fall air, awed by the sight of red leaves falling all around me.

I ran. I didn't dare look around. I knew that if I could make it home to my apartment before I saw him, I would be safe. If I glimpsed him, even briefly or by accident, I would not be able to escape him. If I could see him, then he could see me.

I ran through the glorious trees, trees that were spewing red leaves into the wind and covering the earth in crunchy, slippery, matted redness. Each step brought me nearer to the verge of hope and panic.

I came to a hill and could see the parking lot and my apartment building just beyond. I dropped to the ground on my back, rolling and sliding down that great red-leafed fountain—the leaves, the red leaves falling around me, racing me. I slid much faster on them.

I slammed hard onto the pavement, next to a row of plain cars—for someone somewhere, today was just a regular day. I bounded to my feet, so frightened, so close, and could feel the warmth of home and safety just a couple of yards away.

I glanced up into the stairwell of my building. There was nobody there. I was relieved, but didn’t dare slow down. I threw the door open and ran up the stairs—one flight gone, two flights gone, the taste of my heart in my mouth, the smell of red leaves and earth on my stained jeans. No sight of him.

I stumbled up the final flight with my hands desperately slapping the steps ahead of me. I could see my front door. I collapsed into it and grasped the knob. It swung open easily. I fell onto cold white tile. I had made it. I had made it.

But I had left the door locked.

Just on the periphery of my vision I could see two black-booted feet. His feet. I looked up slowly and into his face. He looked familiar, almost like a friend. But as I squeezed my eyes shut and flexed my hands over the hard tile below, I knew that when I looked again, his face would be very different.

"The Red Run," copyright 2016 Amelia Cotter