Orange Flurry

Orange Flurry

Butterfly wings slice the air
moving in the softness of a breeze
black-edged orange blizzard in indigo sky.

Fragile wings velvety bold
defying the enemy
seeking sweetness.

A blur of wings
soft maneuvers against all odds
a flurry that sings.

A touch on skin can bring
to souls that seek elusive peace
hope for the journey yet to come.

© Barbara Flass 2000

The monarch butterfly goes through four generations in the span of a year.  The life span of the first three generations is only two to six weeks, but the fourth generation that flies south in the fall to warmer climates lives six to eight months.  The migration north of this fourth generation in the spring is a miraculous journey.


Violin Virtuoso

The taut white lines of the bow moved along the strings on the violin, creating a clarity of sound that dispersed into the warm, sultry summer air.  Feeling flowed along the lines and slipped gently from the edges, swirling in tonal patterns, entering porous cells of skinny arms of rapt young listeners, their arms jangling with circles of gold.   It merged with all the chaos of emotional webs inside and one, only one,  broke through into freedom–complete joy.

His eyes were shut, dark lashes touching faint pouches under bottom lids.  A shock of gray hair arched down over one eyebrow and moved nearly imperceptively in the slight movement of air.  He wasn’t present in the room, adrift somewhere in the swirling notes surrounding him.  He was tall and thin but energy, soft energy, flowed from within to the tips of his fingers, and his body swayed slightly left to right and back again.  He was in the midst of creation, and we were the fortunate witnesses to his magic.



He sits in sullen silence,
defiance dancing within,
making him twitch, jump in fear
at a raised voice,
a swift movement.

He has taken the last seat in the last row by the window.
He carries no books, no paper, no pen.
He is not averse to learning.
He has passion,
but not for books.
His passion, he tells me,  is playing paintball
and piloting a plane.
He has dreams that take him away
from the reality and necessity of school.

He writes in his journal words I don’t want to read,
how he fears the holidays.
He will see his dad for the first time
since the age of three outside of jail.
His father, imprisoned for a hit-and-run death,
now reentering the life of a boy
already on a path to somewhere without him.

Does he clutch his dreams to him
as the voice in the room drones on,
or does he release them into the air,
defiance lessening at last?

© Barbara Flass  2002

Easter Bonnet

When my sister and I were children, Easter held special meaning for us.  We would get to shop for new clothes to wear to church on Easter Sunday, and my favorite part was shopping for a hat.  Sometimes my mother made our dresses and even coats, but the hats and shoes had to be purchased and it was great fun!

We went to a hat shop in a small plaza that is no longer in existence.  I remember trying on all kinds of hats until we found the perfect one.  My sister and I tried to choose different hats to suit our personalities, but really we ended up looking a lot alike.

We needed patent leather shoes also.  I remember how tight they were at first, and how we didn’t get to wear them very much except to church.  My mother also wore a special dress or suit and a hat.  My dad was in his only suit. We didn’t have much money when I was little, and so now I wonder how my parents afforded new shoes, hats, and dresses for us, but they always did.

After church when we were very little, we got to look for our Easter baskets and then later we had a big dinner together.  My mother was a wonderful cook, and both dinner and dessert were a special treat on Easter.

Now when I go to church, I see less fancy clothing and more casual dress even on holidays.  On Easter, however,  I sometimes see little girls in pastel dresses and wide-brimmed hats with ribbons, and I can see on their faces how happy they are to be dressed up in such special clothes.

Easter hats became popular at the end of the Civil War when women who had worn black for mourning the loss of their husbands and sons changed their clothing into brighter colors, adding colorful flowered hats and corsages for Easter.  If real flowers were unavailable, paper flowers and feathers were added.  In the 1870s, the first Easter parade has held in New York City and has continued to this day.  Irving Berlin wrote his famous song “Easter Parade” in 1933, and I remember hearing the song as a child and loving the idea of dressing up each year.

Recently, I was visiting my granddaughters in Los Angeles and we went shopping in a children’s clothing store.  My eighteen-month-old  granddaughter picked up a yellow straw hat with a white ribbon and bow hanging on a rack and put it on her head.  It was much too large, but she refused to take it off.  She walked around the store in her sheer white cotton dress and fancy hat, and I remembered the feeling I had at Easter wearing a hat.  We didn’t buy the hat for her because it was much too big, but I have a picture of her in it, and I love the way she smiles at the camera, so proud of her hat.

Maybe that’s what we all need this Easter season when so much of the news is depressing, when we see the devastation from tornadoes in our country, follow the disaster in Japan and the news of nuclear catastrophe, and hear of our service men and women dying in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Maybe we need flowered hats to bring us some happiness.  Easter Sunday was historically referred to as the “Sunday of Joy.”    It didn’t have anything to do with chocolate bunnies or Peeps or small Easter toys.  It was a spiritual joy which everyone can find.  Maybe we just need to find some color, some brightness to get rid of the gloom of the dreary days of winter.  We could wear some pink, yellow, blue, or lavender, all great colors to celebrate the hope and joy of spring.


Easter Egg Hunt

On a visit last Saturday to a local mall, I noticed that there were a lot more people there than usual.  In these tough economic times, the mall crowds have diminished, so I should have expected that some event must be taking place to draw such crowds.  As I drew near to the center atrium, I saw families and many, many children running all over the place.   The kids were all holding a motley assortment of Easter baskets.  So then I knew.  It was an Easter egg hunt!

A garden area had been set up to hide the eggs under bushes and flowers and small trees.  The kids were very excited.  I remember going with my grandchildren on Easter egg hunts when they lived in Atlanta and then Jacksonville.  The little girls were running around in their fancy dresses and bows in their hair and the little boys were wearing dress shirts and pants.  They loaded up their baskets with the pastel-colored plastic eggs, so proud of their discoveries.  The eggs were filled with candy and stickers and small toys.  Then we went to the Easter brunch buffet and enjoyed being together as a family.

This year we will not be with our grandchildren for Easter, but we will still be with family.  We are going to visit our oldest daughter in New Jersey, and we are going to participate in an Easter egg hunt for adults, something new for me.   The rubber stamp store my daughter goes to is having a special Easter egg hunt on the Saturday before Easter.  The owner is hiding small eggs throughout the store, and inside the eggs will be discount coupons for various products she sells.  Since my daughter and I are addicted to rubber stamping and since we both love to shop, especially for a bargain, we will be able to participate in the ancient custom of the Easter egg hunt.

The  traditions of the Easter bunny and egg hunt are pagan in origin.  The legend of the Easter bunny began in Germany where children made nests for the Easter rabbit to lay eggs in.  In the 1700s German immigrants brought the tradition of the Easter egg hunt to Pennsylvania.  Today Easter egg hunts occur in malls, outside on golf courses and other public places, in people’s back yards, and on the lawn of the White House.    Anyone of any age can have the chance to participate in the fun.

I hope everyone gets to hunt for a few Easter eggs somewhere this Easter.  You never know what you might find inside!



Life Walks

In the silence of the snow
a soft shape shifts from side to side
as she lifts her heavy bags into her arms and moves
along the whitening pavement
beneath her feet clad in black rubber boots.

She once was a queen,
royalty by birth, reigning over all.
She was one who counted,
one who knew her place,
one who made a difference.

But now alone in the night streets
with other women of the dark,
she has no place,
she has no reason to be.
She strives just to exist.
Her kingdom does not wait.
Her tasks are undone.
Her journey has no end that matters.

She moves forward nightly
on her lonely lifewalks
wondering who she used to be.

© Barbara Flass  2000

Easy Does It

My mother, oldest daughter, and I created a company called Hopeful Expressions in 2003.   We are a breast cancer support company that makes products for breast cancer patients and their families and friends.  Most of the time we make original, hand-stamped greeting cards, but we also have journals and tote bags.  My sister always took a tote bag with her to chemotherapy, and then one time she noticed that there were very few cards available that supported breast cancer patients, so our goal has been to make those products she would be making now if she were still alive.

Recently, we decided to try covering journals with fabric.  My mom made many tote bags using fabric that supported breast cancer research.  Instead of using paper covers for our journals, we decided to download some free patterns from the computer so she could use more of our fabric for the journals.  It seemed easy enough.  However, we encountered a major problem with on-line directions.  They were confusing and many just did not work the way they were supposed to.  Because my mom is a great seamstress, she is working to modify the patterns, but it is taking days of work.

I started to think about how people, especially bloggers, write directions for the products they make, including greeting cards.  I know they know how to make the product, and most of the time the directions are great.  But when they are confusing, I suspect it’s because they have left out certain steps that are obvious to them but not to the crafter.

When I was teaching middle school, one of  my favorite assignments was writing a how-to paper.  Today as technological advances occur almost daily, our children need to be able to explain how things work.  Young children are frequently asked in school to write directions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or tying their shoes.  I asked my middle school students to decide what it is they do well that everyone can’t do.  It could be how to make a certain craft (I often did the assignment right before Christmas so they could show how to make an ornament, wrap a beautiful package, or make a special treat), or it could be sports-related, such as how to make a goal in soccer or a special technique to make a three-pointer in basketball.  It could be how to hold a musical instrument or how to clean it or how to play a few notes.  It could be how to play a card game or do a magic trick. The assignment required the student to write clear directions and choose a classmate to demonstrate it while the writer read the directions aloud to him.  The writers were not allowed to show their partner how to do it.  The written directions needed to be clear.  This was often a funny assignment as some directions were definitely confusing, resulting in a comical and literal  interpretation.  One year a girl decided to show a boy how to do a manicure.  She brought in blue nail polish and a very confident boy agreed to try to follow her directions.  The problem occurred at the end of the demonstration when the girl realized she had forgotten to bring polish remover and the boy went through the school day with blue nails.  He also had to explain to his parents why he was wearing nail polish.

Students quickly discovered that the directions they thought were so clear were not clear at all,  so revision was necessary.  In recent years, I encouraged students to explain how to use some of the new technology, but because it was difficult for them to find someone who didn’t already know how to do it,  I often became the person who needed to learn it!

I wish anyone who posts on-line directions for making a craft or using today’s technology would try them out on someone first, someone who is not very knowledgeable about the subject, so confusion and frustration could be avoided.  My mom is still struggling with how to make a fabric book cover that actually fits and lies flat.  The directions need to be clear and simple.  Isn’t that true for everything we need to learn?

So if you are a teacher needing a new writing assignment for your students, I would encourage you to help them write directions.  Technical writing is an important skill for them to learn and will be even more important for them as they get older, go to college, graduate, and start a career.  If you are a crafter who often posts directions, try them out on someone first.  I think many people today choose to follow bloggers who are not only successful but who can also write clearly.  Those bloggers become our favorites to follow.  My goal today to find someone who can give us clear and easy directions for making a  fabric book cover!