Books are a forest and it’s hard to see the trees, except the tall ones or the old ones. But when you enter the forest, it’s the new growth that emits the sunlight....

Monday, November 17, 2014

On the US Post Office besides the whereabouts of The Wide Awake Loons

The Postmaster of the USPS has stepped down.  In September, the post office endured a cyber attack.  Information about employees was breached but the employees didn’t know about that until November.  At a local post office, I was asking about the threatened closure of Duluth, Minnesota’s mail processing  center when I learned about the cyber attack.  Ever since the advent of email, the post office’s financial woes have worsened.

I visit a post office on an average of four times a week.   My ebay score says that I’ve sent out at least 4000 packages but that’s probably half of it since the numbers refer to feedback.   Many of my packages are sent book rate.  

Although it sounds bad for the post office, I want to encourage people to use USPS for packages, especially now at Christmastime.   In all of these years, I have had only one domestic package lost.  That was a small package containing a sulfide marble and it was insured.  The marble was a little treasure however the value of it was returned in full.  I’ve had a few things break but that was early on and my packaging could have been part of the blame – sending a large print with a heavy frame and having the glass break.   I have had books sent media rate eaten by machinery, arriving with grease on the package and damaged.  That’s happened twice, I think.  What was insured was efficiently processed and the money came back.  Of course, media mail is inexpensive and that is the risk.

Considering those issues in 8000 cases, I think the USPS is an excellent service.

I had to complain about UPS.  Recently, I had a very large package ordered, and it weighed almost a hundred pounds.  To my shock, one UPS employee had to deliver that from the truck and up steps in our steep neighborhood.  I actually helped him.  The package had some outer damage by the time we accomplished this.

My recent conversation at the post office was leading to that.  The postal clerk informed that the USPS has a maximum weight of 70 pounds.  The UPS maximum is 150 but I would never have expected one person to deliver a parcel weighing more than 70 pounds.

I’ve long been frustrated with UPS.  That service was originally for businesses and for international package shipping.   UPS employees are not so familiar with particular buildings and houses.  They are not given keys to apartment buildings.  They deliver when people are at work and then they leave a note saying that you should be present to sign for your package.  They come back when you have to be at work.  Sometimes they don’t return during the time frame that they schedule.   I used to have UPS packages delivered to my workplace which solved everything – if it was okay with the workplace.  I even had a computer and monitor delivered there when I wasn’t quite sure that the boss would like that.

In my experience, USPS is totally adequate.  If I want to send something fragile or expensive, I insure it.  If the sender wants to know definitely that the receiver was the one to take the package, they can just fill out a slip to be signed.  I haven’t found much reason to switch to UPS, especially as it is usually more expensive.

Just a heads-up to share that although the USPS is having troubles, they are still very reliable.

The Wide Awake Loons is re-published and with illustration inside.  Silver Knight Publishing endured a crippling phishing attack last April, and since then, they have worked with reduced staff and offered authors a contract reverting rights to them.   I have re-published The Wide Awake Loons with my imprint Couchgrass Books.  The book is the same except for some minor editing.  Now it has illustration inside.

The book is available again in paperback at Amazon.  It is also a Kindle book.  It will be soon be available from Barnes & Noble and at Ingram's by January 15, besides other book sites.

Here are a few illustrations.  More are on the blog page Middle Grade.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Photo posts of autumn color (and free Kindle books!)

*Josiah’s Apple Orchard, MG novel, will be FREE Kindle Oct. 16-21.*

*The House in Windward Leaves, Halloween-time fantasy, will be FREE Kindle from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2*

An enchanted entrance

My one-act play, “The Lawn Auction” is published in Mused Literary Review’s Fall Equinox issue.   The journal is part of BellaOnline, a much-visited site for women and their concerns.  I've read the whole issue and found poems, fiction, and nonfiction that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Wide Awake Loons is being re-published.

The Lake Superior shore region is known for its fall color.  When I was growing up in Southern Minnesota, our next door neighbors took a trip up to Duluth every fall just to see the trees turning color.   We were in school and never could take that in.  Since moving to Duluth, I have marveled at Indian summer here.  I take pictures every year, and admire trees from my windows that are just plain breath-taking.  This year, I’m putting pictures in this blog post. 

Decoration for the evergreen

The boulevard trees arching are scheduled to be removed for blocks due to road & sewer pipe improvement.

Mountain ash
The yellow leaf road

My new banner at Facebook

When I lived in Minneapolis, I wrote this poem.  It was published in Rio Number 14 in 2004, online.

On a day when a maple leaf
is really a flower

Last walk in harpstring hues
tousled by the yellowing
palms of trees.  This day was
borrowed from August.

In other chameleon trees, fire
supplies mood but not the balm.
I gasp too at fall’s rude turmoil,
at petals imploding like dresses
exposing crooked legs.  Some
bloom backwards, stuck on a
perverse carousel around houses,
papery-soft like widows with tissues.
Squashed are most.  Appallingly
their mauves are trampled.
Striped petunias put up a
frilled front, looking less ruined.

I pass a huge sidewalk blossom.
A flamingo flower strung in
pink from the sky.  Billowed
as poppymallow, silky as
tiger lilly - maple leaf?

I picked the leaf, passed
the foundering flowers.  Picked
a laugh bluffing about maples
and meanings.  What’s in flower?
What’s dying flame?  What
isn’t borrowed?

Next day I check the maple flower
between leaves of an unborrowed
book.  It has flared, crinkled
to its capillaries, gauntly as
an octogenarian’s face.  Today
fall fell chill.  This is a leaf
the shape of a sunstorm
the flamboyance of a maple
defying definition to the death.

Clouds can be astonishing too.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Trees in the way of road repair

At first I thought that young people were getting ready for a party on Fourth Street.  That’s the street I usually take going downtown or to the shopping plaza near the Duluth branch of the University of Minnesota.  East Fourth Street is an older neighborhood and it houses many off-campus students.  I had seen the tree decorations from the road.  They remained and it wasn’t until I walked along the blocks that I could read quotes tacked on the old trees, and see how the trees were also residents of the neighborhood.  Especially to the house owners.  They are old trees, silver maple, ash, northern oak, and elm that form an arching pergola over the busy street, old trees that are glorious in the fall.

Most of my life, I’ve lived near a wide street that leads to a city downtown.  Street repair and neighborhood renewal are usual scenes.  At another location in Duluth, I watched the construction for new sewer pipes in a concave of dirt where old tires gave ballast to the streets.  This was an avenue and because there weren’t many trees on the boulevard, I watched only one tree removed and replaced with a sapling.  It mattered to a house owner at the time, and to me because of the tree’s fall color.

Fourth Street obviously needs repair.  It’s a bumpy ride.  Up here in Duluth, roads weather harsh winters.  But now, about 75 percent of the old trees on that street’s boulevards are threatened to be cut down.  Because the excavation and removal of old sewer pipes, pipes from as long ago as 1888, will damage tree roots.   Even so, the University of Minnesota Extension department maintains that the trees in question might be tolerant to having half of their roots cut.  In a city survey, most Fourth Street trees were in good to excellent condition.  The Duluth Budgeteer explained the issue.

So the argument has begun about this road construction slated for 2016.  The city promises to plant new trees in the boulevards while it also plans bike paths along the street.   Perhaps they could save trees, see how they do after the road and sewer pipe repair, and then remove dying trees and replant where needed?   I know that they’ll have to cut the arching branches to accommodate the vehicles necessary for the repair.

I looked at a map that showed the excavation points and of course, there are many near my location.   I had been working on the publication of Josiah’s Apple Orchard when I learned of this.   A spoiler here, but the kids in the book found out that an apple picking trip was their last because of a similar issue.  At least they didn’t live near the orchard.

One of my first writings in childhood was about a plum tree in our front yard that was charred and split during a lightning storm.  That absolutely horrified me.  The tree gave good plums.   Particular trees become familiars.  Certain trees in my childhood neighborhood, a letterbox tree, a catalpa tree in Minneapolis, an apple tree in St. Paul, a mountain ash tree at my previous Duluth address.  I think I will have to show the annual pictures I take of fall color in Duluth in another blog post.

Josiah’s Apple Orchard was published in August 2014.   It is a Middle Grade novel set in the 1960s although its farmer’s markets and its music lessons are like those today.