Laura Bruno Lilly

The road ends, but the journey continues...

Betwixt & Between my Purple Patch Flights of Fancy

It’s been awhile since I last posted. I have noticed many of the bloggers/musicians/writers/quilters/artists/poets/photographers/aka-everyday people I follow are also more silent than active on their website/blogs these days.

So, I’m in good company. 😊

I like how those same blog-buds just post something – whenever – without apologizing for not having posted for a good long time…so in that light, I do likewise in today’s post.

I’d like to add that I appreciate when those same blog-buds give heads up on taking longer breaks from their blog…so in that light I will do likewise, whenever that time comes.

Fact is, I’m in a Purple Patch. That’s a cool term I learned from Andy, my Manc Poet Bud. It essentially means – I’m on a creative roll!

This is a good thing.

My Purple Patch feels like I can fly like a butterfly!

I’m also juggling & planning some ‘normal’ life stuff betwixt and between (aha – notice another Brit phrase?) my Purple Patch Flights of Fancy.

This is also a good thing.

Because…

It includes an In Person, Face-to-Face, Thanksgiving Family Feast this year!

Yippee! Dance of Joy!

For the record, the youngsters and their respective significant others are all double vaxxed, me and hubby are triple vaxxed and we’re all ready to mix and mingle, give thanks and celebrate.

In addition, we’ll all be meeting our ‘almost-daughter-in-law’ for the very first time in person.

And, don’t you know, she’ll be in good company. 😊

October Poet (part three, final)

Khaya Ronkainen

Khaya Ronkainen, poet

Khaya Ronkainen is a South African-Finnish writer. Her work is largely inspired by nature but often examines the duality of an immigrant life. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Seasons Defined and From the Depth of Darkness, published through her imprint. Some of her work has been anthologized as well as featured in various publications. She is currently at work on her third poetry collection about all things pandemic and political. To learn more or connect with her, visit her blog at www.khayaronkainen.fi


Here we come to the third and final part of our (he)art to (he)art interview with Khaya where she elaborates on the universal language of love (part one here, part two here).
Please read on to the end where I reveal who won the free autographed copy of her “From the Depth of Darkness”.

LBL: How many languages do you in fact speak and/or understand?

KHAYA: Hmm…let’s see! I speak and understand five of the eleven South African official languages. I also speak Finnish. I’ve also studied a bit of Swedish and basic Spanish. Out of all these, I only speak four fluently, and dream only in two; Xhosa and English.

I dream in Xhosa

LBL:  There’s a drastic difference between South Africa and Finland! And yet, you seem to have embraced your adopted home. I suspect that connection was due to falling in love with a Finn!? Care to elaborate on what brought you two together?

KHAYA: True, there’s a drastic difference between these two countries. But there’s not much difference between people; we all want the same things in life. Tell me one person, who doesn’t want to be loved! I’m not talking about romantic love now but a universal love – being seen and accepted for who we are.

What brought us together? [Laughs]…Love, of course, is what usually brings people together. It’s that same love that saw me leave my warm and sunny birth country to embrace long, dark and cold Nordic winters. Love transcends everything, doesn’t it?

But what has kept us together and happy all these years is equally important. Our backgrounds, how we were raised, and our way of thinking are quite similar, even though we were born on the opposite sides of the world. We have so many things in common. For instance, the spirit of adventure (taking risks, being open to things we don’t know and learn, embrace the unexpected) is one of the things we share.

And oh, yes! I have the best in-laws ever. They make me feel like the luckiest girl in the world! So, again, the language of love has played a huge role in embracing my adopted home and vice versa.

LBL: You make building and nurturing relationships seem so easy to do. I assume this is how you approach relationship in your writing world as well, not only with readers but fellow writers.

KHAYA: Exactly. I see the reader of my writing as someone I’m having a conversation with. That is, it’s more than just saying come look, see, I wrote a book and now I’d like you to buy it. But it’s an invitation to explore the world I present in the book with me and exchange thoughts, ideas or even letters. My hope is always for the reader to see themselves in the world I share or learn something new or be inspired to share their world, too.

The same applies to relationships with my fellow writers. I value genuine conversations. Perhaps, that’s why blogging is my favoured way of interacting with other writers and writing communities. It allows for depth; learning more about the person behind the avatar. I like learning about how other writers and creatives, at large, navigate their worlds; the sharing of challenges and victories as our words find a home or take off to delight readers, wherever they find them. So, as it’s been said over and over again, “Other writers are not your competition but a source of support.” Because who else fully understands the struggles and joys of the writing life than another writer.

So, in closing, I’d like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to you for this meaningful conversation. I hope you and your readers will enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed answering your questions. Thank you so much. And here’s to October!

LBL: …and to October babies! 🙂


Khaya's chapbooks on shweshwe cloth

And the winner is…L. Marie! Congrats!

Please comment below and I’ll send on your autographed copy of “From the Depths of Darkness” via snail mail shortly.

Note: Fabrics in photo are traditional South African shweshwe cloth – sent to me by a dear SA quilter recently. I thought they added a little something to the display of Khaya’s chapbooks.


October Poet (part two)

Khaya Ronkainen

Khaya Ronkainen is a South African-Finnish writer. Her work is largely inspired by nature but often examines the duality of an immigrant life. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Seasons Defined and From the Depth of Darkness, published through her imprint. Some of her work has been anthologized as well as featured in various publications. She is currently at work on her third poetry collection about all things pandemic and political. To learn more or connect with her, visit her blog at www.khayaronkainen.fi


Our (he)art to (he)art conversational interview continues, touching on the power of the written word and language as a bridge…please join us.

LBL: In reading your bio I am reminded that English is far from being your first language and yet it appears to be your language of choice for the written word. Why is that?

KHAYA: The answer is long and complex but I’ll keep it short. English is the main language, in every sphere of my life. I had no choice as history and politics of the day made sure that English and Afrikaans were the languages. So, like most South Africans, I’m multilingual. And even though for Black South Africans, English is officially classified as a second language, many of us have a native-like proficiency. Because we were (and continue to be) exposed to English from a very early age.

While I speak my mother tongue Xhosa fluently, I cannot write it with the same fluency I write English, especially now as I haven’t lived in South Africa for many years. By this I mean, I have to move slow and be diligent when writing or reading long Xhosa texts.

Finnish is another dominant language in my daily communication. Nonetheless, at home (in Finland) we speak English, except with a few relatives who don’t speak the language.

I view all these languages I speak as a set of keys to open doors that allow me entry into different worlds.

 LBL: Born into the Xhosa community of South Africa, your first language is Xhosa. I assume Xhosa is more of a spoken language so poetry, prose, stories are conveyed more along the lines of a spoken tradition? In light of that, what drew you to the written word? Expressing yourself in this manner?

KHAYA: First, I need to clarify, Xhosa is one of the South African official languages. It’s a standard language that is written, read and spoken. That is, it’s not dialect rather it has several dialects. I can think of seven Xhosa dialects off the top of my head. But you are correct about the oral tradition; the passing of knowledge from one generation to the next through stories, prose, poetry, songs, painting, etc.

I come from a tradition of oral storytelling, which means I grew up around stories. Retelling of Xhosa tales, was a pastime that lit our household with excitement in the evenings.

Anyway, what drew me to the written word? First, I’m an introvert with some elements of extroversion. I simply prefer to write rather than talk. So, letter writing was the art form I was drawn to first. At the time, though, I didn’t know or do it as an art but a pastime to share my thoughts. Second, I find power of the written word unmatched.

“Some of the important parts of life are not visible in pictures: ideas, insights, logic, reason, mathematics, intelligence. These can’t be drawn, photographed or pictured. They have to be conveyed in words…and can only be understood by those who have acquired the superpower of reading.”

Kevin Kelly

LBL: In what other languages do you write? And do you find it difficult creating poetry in languages and in context of a culture/society not native to your personal experiences/knowledge? 

KHAYA: I once mentioned on Instagram that one of the things I’m embarrassed about is that I can’t even write a poem in my mother tongue. Because I’m gradually losing my Xhosa vocabulary. A shift (or even death of a language in some cases) is the downside of being a multilingual. But the upside? I view all these languages I speak as a set of keys to open doors that allow me entry into different worlds.

As for difficulty in creating poetry in languages not native to me, I can’t say because I write mainly in English. As for difficulty in creating poetry in context of a culture/society not native to me, my poetry (even though largely inspired by nature) is influenced by cultures and societies I live in as well as diverse personal experiences/knowledge. So, the difficulty might be making art itself, but not due to a lack of perspective or material.

Dr. Solorio reading Khaya's chapbook

LBL: I asked you to sign a copy of your From the Depths of Darkness I’m giving to my middle daughter as a gift. The phrase you used in the inscription “For what is language but a bridge!” reflects on your own passion for building bridges with your own mastery of several languages. You seem to be driven by a deep desire to communicate, connect and enable community among people from all walks of life and cultures.

KHAYA: Thanks once again Laura for supporting my work. I thought a lot about what drives my deep desire to communicate and connect. I think it’s due to a number of things, such as my personality, values, worldview and so on. Or maybe it’s just a gift. And if that’s the case, then I’m grateful for it.  What I know is that I value authentic relationships with others.

However, I’m also passionate about words. I’m always interested in how they form a language, which we in turn use or respond to. How words can change within a language as we decide who to invite in or keep out. Hence, I see language as a bridge. It’s a tool we all have at our disposal and we, individually, can decide what to do with it.


to be continued…commenters will be automatically entered into a drawing for a free autographed copy of From the Depths of Darkness…winner will be announced at the end of the third and final part of this interview.

October Poet (part one)

Khaya Ronkainen

Khaya Ronkainen, poet

Khaya Ronkainen is a South African-Finnish writer. Her work is largely inspired by nature but often examines the duality of an immigrant life. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Seasons Defined and From the Depth of Darkness, published through her imprint. Some of her work has been anthologized as well as featured in various publications. She is currently at work on her third poetry collection about all things pandemic and political. To learn more or connect with her, visit her blog at www.khayaronkainen.fi


Depending upon which hemispheric season you find yourself occupying – grab a mug of hot cocoa or a tall glass of iced tea, sit back and savor the following (he)art to (he)art conversational interview.

LBL: Very early on in the perusal of your two chapbooks, I realized an intersection of yours and mine outlook on life. First and foremost, it’s the one of understanding, compassion and experience in being displaced with an even further deep desire to be the troubadour sounding the existence and needs of others in various states of being within displaced communities.

The other main intersection is that of our shared birthday month! Your poem, Summer was a real eye-opener as I think there is a natural tendency for us all to relate deeply to one’s birth month and consequent season associated with it.

What would you have me say of you?
Ours is an obscure relationship
You led me believe I was your baby
A summer baby –
Because down south, October simmers
Spring overlapping with summer

What would you have me say of you?
As if immaterial, now you tell me I am
An autumn baby –
Because up north, October teases
Skies weep fearful of winter.

excerpt from Summer by Khaya Ronkainen

I am an October Baby and my favorite season is Fall. You are an October Baby, yet your point of reference is as a Summer Baby.

That particular poem embodies what it means to be fully displaced – by choice or as refugee or for whatever reason. The seasons are a language unto itself and in this case a literal translation brings about a type of confusion!

KHAYA: In our early correspondence, I expressed my delight in learning about our intersection. But I had already suspected that we might share a similar outlook on life. This was probably from a comment you made on my blog about me being a sensitive poet. That comment made me pause because very few people, even in my family, have that perception of me.

I thought: it takes one sensitive poet to see another. 🙂

Your interpretation of displacement communicated in the Summer poem blew me away. Because I don’t know if any readers of my poetry understood or interpreted the poem as you did!

LBL: Let’s explore this a bit further. We share the same birth month and yet we were born into two different seasons. That is a new perspective for me. We are shaped somewhat by when we were born – and imagining myself as a Spring/Summer child is not only foreign to me, but honestly slightly off-putting.

You however seem to have embraced just such a dichotomy – Southern & Northern Hemisphere Seasonal Duality – fully embracing both birthrights. I can’t help but see the symbolism of this playing out in your poetry reflective of your own personal immigrant journey.

KHAYA: Oh, Laura! You made me laugh with the idea of being a Spring/Summer baby being slightly off-putting! I actually find having a claim on both seasons a beautiful contradiction. I guess because it depicts my life.

But you are correct, the dichotomy of seasonal duality is symbolic and plays a huge role in my writing. Poems in Seasons Defined, written over a number of years before being published as a collection, capture this contrast more. They were written from a place of amazement, a sense of awe, not only about love and my second home but I was also seeing my life anew under the microscope of clearly defined Finnish seasons.

I belong to two worlds, and I am at home in both.

Of course, we have four seasons in South Africa but they easily overlap. October, for example, is supposed to be spring but temperatures are already so high that it feels like summer. That’s why I’ve always identified as a summer baby. Then I moved to Finland and what I thought I knew was turned upside down, literally. 🙂

I’ve grown to love autumn, it’s one my favourite seasons. Yet it’s the same season that has the ability to throw me under the bus, if it finds me in a bad mental space. But yes, I’ve embraced it all. I belong to two worlds, and I am at home in both.


to be continued…commenters will be automatically entered into a drawing for a free autographed copy of From the Depths of Darkness

2021 International Day of Peace

The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly. Two decades later, in 2001, the General Assembly unanimously voted to designate the Day as a period of non-violence and cease-fire.

2021 Theme: Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world

Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The UN General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire.

In 2021, as we heal from the COVID-19 pandemic, we are inspired to think creatively and collectively about how to help everyone recover better, how to build resilience, and how to transform our world into one that is more equal, more just, equitable, inclusive, sustainable, and healthier.

The pandemic is known for hitting the underprivileged and marginalized groups the hardest. By April 2021, over 687 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered globally, but over 100 countries have not received a single dose. People caught in conflict are especially vulnerable in terms of lack of access to healthcare.

In line with the Secretary-General’s appeal for a global ceasefire last March, in February 2021 the Security Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for Member States to support a “sustained humanitarian pause” to local conflicts. The global ceasefire must continue to be honoured, to ensure people caught in conflict have access to lifesaving vaccinations and treatments.

The pandemic has been accompanied by a surge in stigma, discrimination, and hatred, which only cost more lives instead of saving them: the virus attacks all without caring about where we are from or what we believe in. Confronting this common enemy of humankind, we must be reminded that we are not each other’s enemy. To be able to recover from the devastation of the pandemic, we must make peace with one another.

And we must make peace with nature. Despite the travel restrictions and economic shutdowns, climate change is not on pause. What we need is a green and sustainable global economy that produces jobs, reduces emissions, and builds resilience to climate impacts.

The 2021 theme for the International Day of Peace is “Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world”. We invite you to join the efforts of the United Nations family as we focus on recovering better for a more equitable and peaceful world. Celebrate peace by standing up against acts of hate online and offline, and by spreading compassion, kindness, and hope in the face of the pandemic, and as we recover.”

I was in High School in Boulder, Colorado when this song was first released – I’m still on that Peace Train!

“Everyone jump upon the Peace Train” – let’s make this world a better place.
Happy International Day of Peace. One Love!!!

playing for change

Credits from Playing for Change: “Peace Train” – Yusuf / Cat Stevens’ timeless anthem of hope and unity – was originally released on the classic album ‘Teaser and the Firecat’ in 1971 and was Stevens’ first US Top 10 hit, reaching number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This Song Around The World version features more than 25 musicians from 12 countries and unites Yusuf / Cat Stevens, singing and playing a beautiful white piano in a tranquil open air setting in Istanbul, Turkey, with musicians such as five time Grammy Award winning blues/americana artist Keb’ Mo’; Grammy nominated Senegalese artist Baaba Maal; Silkroad’s Rhiannon Giddens—also a Grammy Award winner; Ghassan Birumi playing the oud in Ramallah, Palestine; musicians from the Silkroad Ensemble in Rhinebeck, New York; Pat Simmons (The Doobie Brothers) and James “Hutch” Hutchinson (bass player with Bonnie Raitt) performing in Maui, Hawaii; and bringing together conflict regions with Tushar Lall playing the harmonium in Delhi, India, and Joshua Amjad playing the Kartaal in Karachi, Pakistan.

What in your life did COVID-19 interrupt?

That question – cum – title idea for a post has been bouncing around the caverns of my brain for most of this past year. And then a twin question surfaced this Spring as we neared rounding the corner on the Pandemic, bringing with it a glimmer of hope as a surge of people became fully vaxxed (myself included).

What in your life did COVID-19 interrupt?

What in your life did COVID-19 open up?

January 2020 – February 2020
One slice of life we were walking through in bullet points:

  • After a full year of searching, we finally found a business to buy and were in the final round of negotiations for the sale
  • We decided on an area of the country to relocate to, were about to finalize the house hunt and then begin moving – after waiting what seemed like forever to finally do this (I was already 50% packed and ready to go since the beginning of 2019!)
  • Ultimately, we were poised and ready to sign on the dotted line for each of the above
  • Meanwhile the business sale fell through – but we were still on-track with continuing the house search
  • I got sick right before our planned road trip for the final house hunt which in turn delayed that focus and entire move – but we viewed that as a mere postponing of the process
  • Then – March 2020 – COVID-19 took front & center on the world’s stage and everything came to a screeching halt

In our situation, it was more the momentum of our life that got interrupted.


…is what it opened up…

What about you?

Gems from Jackson

a brief catch-up note: As I’m tying up loose ends on some musician stuff, dabbling in finishing some scrappy quilt UFOs and working on business tasks as hubby directs – my modus operandi is strictly in Summer Mode. To be more specific – Languid, Southern, Slow&Low Summer Mode.

I’ve kept up with most of the blogs I follow, correspond with a few buds via email but as for posting anything myself – meh.

Until now! HA!

A blogger I follow has been posting photos of her surroundings using a new camera. In her post a few days ago, I thought I recognized the place in which they were taken.  Besides the literal mural of a touristy postcard, my suspicions were confirmed when another photo of an art mural created on the sides of a downtown building appeared within this single post.

I remembered this place, this tiny rust-belt town in rural Michigan from just a single visit and a single positive impression made from that visit last year.

Michelle Lilly Solorio, PhD 2020

Late in September of 2020, hubby and I took a jaunt up to Michigan to visit our middle daughter and son-in-law. At the time, there was a narrow window of reduced regional COVID-19 surges so we decided it was a reasonable risk worth pursuing. (Please click here to read the fun, exciting details of our delayed Family celebration and in-house acting out of Michelle’s PhD Hooding ceremony that was cancelled earlier that month due to COVID).

One of our Family outings included ‘a Sunday Drive’ as it was noted in my Family travels MMXX post. We meandered the back roads from their home in Lansing to destination: Jackson. Streets empty of humans due to COVID closures made for an eerie but delightful walking tour of this place – filled with artistic surprises around every corner. Literally.  

Thank you, Pat, for continuing to explore your new camera and photography skills roaming the streets and snapping photos of the murals on the buildings in Jackson, Michigan. It’s heartening to see that Jackson is keeping true to its rusty rooted artistic flow.

wp5.8 upgrade issues

The Fix was Simple. Finding It Was Not.

Consider this a blogger-buddy public service post…A little over a week ago I set up a staging site to make a few changes to my site, perform updates on various plug-ins and to install the new wp5.8 upgrade. I really like that my hosting company offers a fairly easy way for this non-techie to do this task. I’d even go so far as to say, it’s kind of fun to poke around in my cPanel!

That said, after doing a manual backup, then setting up the staging site, I began my task in earnest.

Plug-in updates – piece of cake. A few other minor fixes – done and done.

Now for the biggie – the wp5.8 upgrade.

At first glance, all looked just like it always looked. Upon further perusal, my site appeared to function as usual.

In my giddiness of having triumphed over the ever looming threat of a broken site due to update/upgrade glitches, I was all set to depress the ‘push to live’ button.

But – and I think this is where my maturity and ever nagging sense of doing things ‘right’ kicked in – I decided to check just one more thing. That being, actually writing up a new sample blog post using the extra Gutenberg Blocks that came with the upgrade.

Blithely clicking the ‘add new post’ button on my dashboard, I expected to begin a fun jaunt into exploring the nuances of the newly added Gutenberg Blocks.

What unfolded before my very eyes, however, was far from being anything fun…What unfolded before my very eyes was…

The White Screen of Death

I could easily navigate back and forth from the emptiness of that edit page to my dashboard, but what good is a website/blog if one has no way to write or publish new content?

Oh and, let’s not forget, I discovered this ‘glitch’ as an after thought! I almost nixxed all my hard work in the protected environment of a staging site with the single ‘push to live’ command.

While hugely grateful to my inner OCD self to have diverted such a disaster, I was more than a bit resentful that I had yet another hurdle to jump over just to get my site up and running on a basic wp5.8 upgrade.

WordPress is not for the faint of heart…but I digress…

Thus began my long and arduous deep dive into troubleshooting. I’ll spare you the details of that deep dive, but I do want to point out that for all the ‘help’ offered, there isn’t much related to what I experienced. So I began expanding my search in more obscure reaches of that ‘help’.

Which lead me to the WP.org support forum for the Hemingway Theme, thinking perhaps it all had to do with theme incompatibility (go here to read the rapid unfolding of what became The Simple Fix).

Turns out, Gutenberg Block Editor does not ‘play well’ with my browser of choice, Mozilla Firefox.

The Fix?

Update that darn Browser and make it ‘play nicely’ with my newly upgraded WordPress site.

Late June, Early July: Hello!

Yep, I’m still here!

So, it’s been another ‘Colorado Day’. Meaning: a non-swampy South Carolina type of day. Sunshiny lower humidity with high temps…reminiscent of the Mile High weather I’m accustomed to. Inviting me to indulge in a modicum of activity like taking a walk around the block unencumbered by the normally oppressive atmospheric humidity.

It’s been this way since early Springtime.

Nice. However, to be fair, 39% humidity is considered thick humidity in the Colorado high country – but here? Sweet bliss.

The entire country is broiling and truth be told, our respite from high humidity is a concern.

We’ve had the occasional soaker rains. Which I so enjoy – as do the frogs!

🙂

But for the most part, the swamps are pining for the soupy wet summer days of old.

The summer, she is yet young.

Perhaps tomorrow?

Tadpoles by the side of the road after the rains

A Boy And His Tuba

Dear Kaden,

Your Ma texted me some pictures and a video she took of you playing at your most recent concert. You sat tall and straight and played your part well – without tapping your foot – yes, I noticed! Good job.

A few weeks ago, I won this book for you. I read an interview a writer friend of mine had with the author, Mary Winn Heider, about her newly released book, “The Losers at the Center of the Galaxy”. Learning that one of the main characters was a boy whose best friend was his tuba – I knew I had to enter the contest and try to win this book for you! And I did!

I waited to send it on to you because I wanted to read it, too. Your Ma might like that it has references to Chicago (our shared hometown – we’re cousins, you know). I suspect the football team and stadium described in the book is based upon Northwestern University in Evanston, but it’s still fun to have that Chicago connection along with the tuba connection.

One of Winston’s (the tuba player in the book) favorite pieces to play is Darth Vader’s Theme from Star Wars – The Imperial March. So, I printed out a copy for you. Who knows, you might play it in a concert next year?

I found a very short 1-minute YouTube of a student about your age practicing playing it on the sousaphone. Which as you probably already know is the marching band version of a tuba. You might like to see it here.

I also am sending you a link to the author’s book trailer. This is a very short 1-minute Vimeo video where she talks about her book and shows you how she works out her action sequences – very fun!  

I am proud of you Kaden. Keep playing your tuba – it is way cool.

Lots of love & hugs (I get to say that because we’re cousins, too!),

Laura


Thanks to all you music teachers in the schools – you serve as first introducers to the glorious variety of instruments there are in this world to try out and play. And a huge thank-you to L. Marie – you help connect kids with books and readers with authors.


Resources for inspiring aspiring Tuba Players

Losers at the Center of the Universe book cover
  • Let’s start off with this book. It can be found here, here and here.
  • Free sheet music of arrangements of popular tunes for tuba at various proficiency levels by TubaPeter can be found here.
  • Your local Tuba Player Musician/Teacher (ask your music shop or school band teacher for recommendations).
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