Her Name Was Linnie (an excerpt)

By M. Frances Erler PeaksAndBeyond.com

          When I was about seven or eight, my parents hired an African American maid to watch us kids after school when Mom had bridge club.  She also did the ironing while she was at our house.  I remember her running the hot iron over a Colonial Bread wrapper, to get the wax melted on it.  This made it really smooth out the wrinkles in the clothes, I guess.

          My brother was three years younger than me, so he doesn’t remember her.  She was to my childhood eyes an older woman, with maybe a little gray in her hair.  Soft-spoken, but I could tell she was a loving person.  If we wanted to talk, she listened.  I don’t think she tended to start the conversation, though.

          Both of my grandmothers lived in other towns, so for those years, Linnie became a surrogate grandma for me.  I never felt uncomfortable around her, like I did with my ‘real’ grandmas sometimes.  I guess I didn’t see them enough to know them well.  

          One evening, Linnie stayed late and made supper for us.  I’m wondering if it was the night my youngest brother was born.  She warmed a can of cream of chicken soup, using water to dilute it.  Mom always used milk, so I thought it would taste strange.  But it was fine.  Every time I make a can of condensed soup with water now, I think of Linnie.

          I don’t know for sure who brought Linnie to our house.  Maybe Mom went to pick her up while I was a school.  It’s odd the things you don’t notice when you’re a child.  She was just there when I got home, and then she went home somehow when her work day was over.

          Once, though, she needed Mom to drive her home, so we children went along.  This was the only time I saw where Linnie lived.  It was in a shabby part of El Dorado, Arkansas, with only dirt streets, and little rundown wooden houses.  It looked rather sad.

          After we’d dropped Linnie off at her house, I remember asking Mom: “Why do the colored people live in such poor places?”  (The N-word was forbidden in my family, even then in the 1950s.)

          “It’s not their fault, Frances,” she said quietly.  “People who are poorer than we are in things are still just as good as people.  Always remember that.”

          I can still picture this entire scene, even though it took place at least 60 years ago.  The words my mother said took on more and more meaning for me as the years went by.  She went out of her way to make sure we didn’t look down on any of the poorer people who lived in our town.  I never knew, until many years later that her childhood had been lived in poverty, too.  Out of it she forged an understanding of all people less fortunate, and compassion for them.  It’s one of the best legacies she left me.

Change (For the Summer Solstice)

By M. F. Erler

The world is like a river flowing,

          Permanently changing,

          Forever running,

          Building its own land.

And in the same way,

          Changes creep into me, unfelt

          Whirling ‘round my feet and head in eddies.

So my soul:

          Longs for where I’ve been

          Craves where I am going,

But can only be here—in the now.

Why can’t I be like the river?

          At its source—trickling from the deep,

                   dim, in-parts of earth?

          At its mouth—wandering slowly, at ease,

                   before losing itself

                   in the wholeness of the sea?

          –and everywhere in between?

                                      M. Frances Erler, PeaksAndBeyond.com

Painting by M. F. Erler

May Book News

From the Bavarian Alps and the coast of Denmark, across the sea to the New World, and into the Mountain West, this book traces 200 years in the lives and struggles of a family learning to make their way in a hostile world.

MFErler @peaksandbeyond.com

My historical fiction book is finally being released, May 15, after 5 years of labor, researching my own ancestry and talking with elderly relatives to glean their stories before it was too late.

From the Cover:

In this historical fiction novel, thirteen-year-old Cinda Parker knows she and her younger brother Ian have a special connection. It’s not until a mysterious stranger named Lexi arrives from the future that they realize they are more than typical mid-twenty-first century children.

Lexi convinces the siblings to travel back 200 years into the minds and lives of their ancestors, in order to help their father, who is dealing with grief over his own father’s death and anger with his brother’s questionable choices. When their family line is disrupted, Cinda and Ian learn the true value of a single life.

The Importance of Darkness

By M. F. Erler

The Importance of Darkness 

I recently wrote a blog on the value of light in our world, but I also touched on the importance of darkness, when I mentioned how our artificial lights block out the wonders of the night skies.  I have a friend living on a farm outside Grangeville, Idaho who takes amazing pictures of the night skies.  Of course, she has a special camera and other equipment, but she is also out in the country where the city lights don’t wash out the stars.

This past year, I began to explore the idea of our need for darkness.  Many people in our urban world are now sleep-deprived, scientists tell us, because we’ve washed out the night with all our city lights.  I read a book by Jules Verne, written in the mid-1800s, that lauded the advent of artificial light as a boon to mankind, because now people could work round the clock, with no need to “waste time” in sleep.  No one had thought of the vital nature of sleep to our bodies and minds back then, apparently.

Another thing I ran across in my reading this past year was “The dark night of the soul.”  This idea originated with John of the Cross, a monk in the late Middle Ages, who for his beliefs was imprisoned in solitary confinement for several years by the Spanish Inquisition.  Yet, instead of telling of how terrible this lonely darkness was, he praised it was a time of great “enlightenment” to him.  There’s irony for you.Maybe this is what our world needs, not more artificial light, but genuine darkness, a place to recharge our spiritual batteries.  Something that none of our technology can do for us.

Excerpt from “Beyond the World”

By M. F. Erler

“Image 2”

It felt so good to stretch his muscles after all the ages of confinement.  A laugh rumbled deep inside him, and a sudden puff of smoke came from his nostrils.  This made him laugh again with delight, and the smoke became a red-orange flame.

            Ah, yes, this was his favorite form.  All too often he had to disguise his true identity—posing perhaps as a handsome human male with sleek dark hair—sometimes as a threatening animal, such as a wolf.  The form he most detested, though, was when he had to imitate the golden glowing body of an angel, one of the Enemy’s trusted servants.

            This memory sent waves of rage through him, and bright blue flames shot from his mouth and nostrils.  He’d been one of them once—many eons ago—but now was cast out.  No matter how he tried to reassume his original form, it never quite fit anymore.  In fact, the very thought of it made him itch with an irritation that only got worse the more he scratched it with his long, curving claws.

            In anger he spread his huge leathery wings, admiring the dark shadows they cast across the landscape below, as he sat, perched on the edge of a craggy cliff.  At least now he was free of the chains that had bound him for so long. 

‘The Enemy thinks he has only released me for a time,’ he hissed to himself.  ‘But he underestimates me.  I still have powers he hasn’t seen, and when I unleash them…’

            The deep chuckling in his throat emerged as a roar.  This ominous sound echoed off the mountains all around, as he launched his huge serpentine form into space and took flight.