Daniel's Esperanza

Daniel's Esperanza

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Lake Winnepesaukah

When my daughter was in college, she spent a summer working at Cedar Point, an amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio.  Calling itself the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World”, it has seventeen coasters in addition to nineteen thrill rides.  Given that billing, I suppose the family and kid oriented rides in the park don’t garner as much attention, but there is something for everyone.  I saw this when we returned to collect her at the end of that memorable summer.
I should add that my daughter loves roller coasters so it was probably a dream job for her at the time.  She returned to the park recently for a fun weekend with her husband, and I couldn’t help strolling down memory lane, recalling my own amusement park experience.  While I like to think her love for coasters might be from me in some small way, it really isn’t.  She also loves horror movies, and well, that definitely is not from me, but coasters/horror films/being scared out of your wits might go hand-in-hand.  I do, however, have fond memories of an amusement park that I grew up loving.
At Lake Winnepesaukah
In 1924, Carl and Minette Dixon purchased approximately 100 acres around a nine-acre lake in Rossville, Georgia (just under ten miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee) with the intent of creating a family swimming and picnic park.  On June 1, 1925, it opened to 5,000 guests.  A year later, the Dixons added a concrete swimming pool which was one of the largest in the south and the amusement park was founded.  Named “Lake Winnepesaukah” (its Native American meaning being “bountiful waters” or “beautiful lake of the highlands”), the park saw its first ride within the year.  The Boat Chute, designed and built by the park’s founder, is the oldest and last mill chute water ride in the U.S. according to the National Amusement Park Historical Association.  It remains one of the most popular rides in the park today.
Staples of the park followed: Mad Mouse Roller Coaster (1960), Cannonball Roller Coaster (1967), Antique Carousel (1968), and The Castle (1969).  While the swimming pool was eventually removed, the rides took its place, and no one seemed to mind.  In addition, the Ferris Wheel, Alpine Way (Sky Lift), Antique Cars, and Bumper Cars can still be enjoyed today.
As a child, I remember the Kiddie Boats, Swings, Motorcycles, Train, and picnics under the shelter.  The spectacle to see was always the beautiful Carousel, or “Merry-Go-Round” as I remember calling it.  It is one of the oldest and largest carousels in the United States and features 68 hand-carved wooden horses, and was originally featured in Atlanta in 1916. I loved it even when I grew taller and brave enough for the “older” rides.
While the wooden roller coaster was recognized for its vertical drops and speeds up to 50 mph, I gravitated toward the rides that would spin and fling.  The Scrambler, Tilt-a-Whirl and Bobsled (now known as the Matterhorn) provided my fix for thrills at the amusement park level, but my favorite ride was called “The Spider”.  Spinning, flinging, up, down and all around, simultaneously.  Other than those who got sick on it, who couldn’t love it?  While I can proudly say that I never lost my lunch, I was once the unfortunate recipient of someone who wasn’t so lucky.  Maybe that’s why the beloved ride is no longer in operation.
As for those roller coasters (and this is for my daughter):  if I had to choose a favorite, I would head south a couple of hours. The Mindbender at Six Flags Over Georgia in Atlanta was it for me.  Three loops.  I suppose that’s all anyone needs to say about it, but by today’s standards it is probably rather mild.  And while the large mega-parks no longer appeal to me because of huge crowds and long lines, I do have a special fondness for Six Flags Over Georgia.  Hey, when you got to see Cheap Trick in concert there in the early 1980s as part of your admission price, how can it not be special?  But give me Lake Winnie any day.
Lake Winnepesaukah holds many memories for me; it was my introduction to amusement parks, and provided a lot of childhood fun.  It was special and something to look forward to during those carefree days of summer.  Years later when I worked in television, I was at Lake Winnie producing a television show and judging a weekly “Battle of the Bands” competition. Fast forward a few years and I, too, introduced my small children to the excitement of the amusement park rides.  I watched while they rode and laughed on the same rides of my youth.  Full circle.
For over 90 years, the park continues to be family-owned and operated with nearly 40 rides and attractions. A five-acre waterpark was added just a few years ago.  Lake Winnepesaukah was named by Travel and Leisure Magazine as one of America’s Top 10 Family Amusement Parks.   For more information, visit the website at www.lakewinnie.com.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

More Photos on Fine Art America

As I wait indefinitely to hear from agents and publishers regarding the status of my latest book, Williamsburg Hill, I've been editing and adding photographs to my Fine Art America account at www.veronica-batterson.pixels.com.

The most current image is shown here.  I took this photograph last week at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colorado.  Near Denver, this 15,000 acre urban refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is home to over 300 species of wildlife. I would highly recommend a visit to this wonderful place, and for more information check out the website at http://www.fws.gov/refuge/rocky_mountain_arsenal.

Thanks for reading this blog and for viewing my photographs.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Mighty Woman

Corinne Smith (Photo: The Detroit Times)
For nearly a decade, I lived next-door to a woman in Michigan who was a pioneer of her time.  I never knew it until now.  Corinne Smith was elderly and retired, very independent, lived alone, and didn’t share anything about her life.  She was reclusive, yet friendly when we saw her.  If there was ever a need for her to ring our doorbell for something, she wouldn’t come inside, preferring to talk to us on our front porch.  Likewise, when we wanted to check on her or needed to share something with her, it was done just outside her front door.  We were never invited into her house.  Assistance and help were rarely accepted from us, yet occasionally we would find a grocery bag of fresh vegetables from her garden placed inside our screened porch.  It seemed she appreciated our efforts.
We lived in Grosse Pointe, a walkable community with sidewalks fronting neighborhood yards on both sides of every street; a grocery store and retail shops were just a few blocks away.  Every day Corinne walked somewhere, often with scarf over her head and the ends tied under her chin to keep her hair in place.  It’s a visual memory I carry about her and I always wondered where she was going.  Sometimes she pulled a folding shopping cart behind her; most of the time she was without it.  I later learned many of those walks were to places where she volunteered, something she did from the moment she reached retirement age.  I’ve no idea if she ever drove a car as we never saw her behind the wheel, but given her past it is very likely she did at one time.
When we moved to Chicago in 2004, she wished us well and told us goodbye.  That was the last contact we ever had with Corinne, and I just recently discovered that she passed away in 2015.  She was ninety-four, and her obituary stated that “even as her health declined, Miss Smith resolved to live with as little assistance as possible.”  It was her obituary that surprised me.
A journalist with a Master’s Degree, she traveled extensively in the 1940s and 1950s, served with the American Red Cross in such countries as India, China, Japan, Korea and North Africa; travel writing took her overseas, as well.  In 1952, she became “one of the few women ever to ride in a jet plane,” according to a Detroit Times article.  She worked as a writer and editor for the Wyandotte Tribune, Detroit Times and Detroit Free Press, eventually having her own column.  Retiring in 1986, she was once quoted as saying, “I’ve been very lucky to have had the opportunity to travel all around the world. Not many people can list the countries they haven’t been to easier than the ones they have been to.”
When you’re a vital and active person walking through that door of retirement, hearing it slam shut as you cross the threshold might cause the outlook for the rest of your life to be a little sobering.  This would be especially so for a woman who, as far as I know, never married and had no children.  I often wondered how lonely she might be, yet she lived a healthy and independent life for twenty-nine years after retiring. 
I wish I had known this information about her when we were neighbors, even though given her solitary lifestyle, knowing wouldn’t have changed much, if anything.  It’s doubtful that any knowledge of her past would alter how and when she wished to interact with us, and it would not have modified her guarded privacy.  As a former colleague once said of her, “She was a trailblazer…ahead of her time.  She was a wonderful role model, a wonderful mentor.”
Saying such words to Corinne Smith would not have mattered much to her, however, having the opportunity to do so held greater meaning for me.  I hope she at least knew of that trail she blazed, and the barriers that were dented due to her life.  It meant something to women in general and to me; to the little girls who looked toward the future with promise and hope, wondering what they were capable of doing, she was a role model.  How I wish I could’ve thanked her.
  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Stardust

This is the first time I've written a short story that potentially wraps up a book that's still in the outlining process.  In other words, I haven't started the manuscript yet, but I'm giving a bit of a back story at the end of it.  At this point, I don't have plans for the book to be titled Stardust, and I don't really know where it's going until I start writing it.  I just have an idea and I'm sharing part of it (but the protagonist will see Ava again).

Nat King Cole's version of Stardust (originally composed by Hoagy Carmichael, lyrics by Mitchell Parish) was the song I had in my head when writing this.  Thanks to all for reading, and as always, copyright applies (©Veronica Randolph Batterson).


Stardust

By Veronica Randolph Batterson
(©Veronica Randolph Batterson) 


“That’s yours,” he told the waitress as she brought his change to the table. 
“Thanks,” she smiled, trying to strike up the nerve for conversation.  “It’s just that me and the others, well, we’re certain we’ve seen ye somewhere before.”
“I’ve often been told I look like somebody,” he replied, shrugging. “Casualty of having a common face, I guess.”
“Aye, a casualty maybe, but your face isn’t common, I promise ye,” she winked and sashayed back to the counter, whispering to two other women who had been working that afternoon.  They glanced his way.
He thought they were around his daughter’s age, much too young to remember who he was, and he certainly didn’t look as he did three decades earlier at the height of when everyone knew his name.  He’d primarily stayed out of the public eye by choice since then and was photographed very little.  It would surprise him if they knew.
Then as if he needed reminding, the background music in the little cafĂ© nudged him toward his purpose.  The song began, stirring memories.  He grabbed his keys, got his coffee to go and strode outside.

And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart
High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that we’re apart

         He walked the sidewalks of Pitlochry, glancing into stores, recalling how the town used to be, and delaying the inevitable.  He had been in Scotland a little over twenty-four hours, yet still hadn’t found the courage to see her.  The flight from L.A. had been tiresome and when he landed in Edinburgh, all he wanted to do was go to the hotel, catch up on his sleep and figure out what he’d say once he lost the fear of facing her.  Instead, he took the rental car and headed for the Highlands to clear his head and think.  The more he drove, the farther away he was from the woman he’d traveled over five thousand miles to see again.  One more day didn’t matter to the twenty-five years that had already passed.
His first stop the morning he arrived had been in Callander, just shy of the Trossachs where he had spent summers as a seasonal ranger in the park.  It had been a while, but driving the hills of his youth came back to him naturally, as did driving on the other side of the road.  His behind the wheel experience began at the age of fourteen when his dad suffered a broken leg, and no one else had been around to make the trek to the hospital.  He’d maneuvered the roads as well as could be expected and, for his efforts, had been rewarded a birthday present one month early.  A guitar.  He knew it had taken his father months of working and saving to afford it.  The instrument helped decide his career path; that decision led him to Ava.

You wander down the lane and far away
Leaving me a song that will not die
Love is now the stardust of yesterday
The music of the years gone by

Nat King Cole crooned the song over the radio the first time he saw her, and every time he heard it his thoughts returned to that time.  He’d found himself in Nashville in 1976, just as his career was getting started.  She was a pretty eighteen-year-old innocent with a transistor radio to her ear, leaning against a tree as it played.  She hummed and swayed to the music and instantly he’d felt a connection; a friendship took root that day and grew into something greater over time.  There was no attempt at impressing him; Ava treated him with genuine kindheartedness, just as she did everyone else.  It was needed in a business that was starting to suck the life out of him, even early on; he soaked up every bit of substance she exuded and that sustained him until demands of the road took him away.
It was nearly eight years later that they had their first date.  By that time, he was burned out with the music industry, had risen quickly, made the money, needed rehab and was ready to turn away from all of it.  Then Ava walked back into his life, a young woman with ghosts of her own, and their relationship took a different turn.  He fell in love. 
“Do you remember this?” he had asked her once, turning up the volume on the car radio as the Cole song suddenly played.

Sometimes I wonder why I spend
The lonely night dreaming of a song
The melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you
When our love was new
And each kiss an inspiration
But that was long ago
Now my consolation
Is in the stardust of a song

“Of course. It came on the radio when we first met. I was so nervous when I saw you, I’m surprised I remember anything though,” she’d replied.
“You nervous? You hid it well.”
“An act,” she’d laughed.
He remembered taking her hand then and what followed were the happiest eighteen months of his life.  They became inseparable.  When he had commitments that couldn’t be canceled, he made sure she was there with him.  The togetherness and relationship weren’t approved by everyone.  Their whirlwind romance was endured much to the chagrin of Ava’s aunt, along with his long-time agent, Sonny, who usually didn’t care what anyone did as long as a potential deal wasn’t axed as a result.  Both had expressed displeasure at them being a couple, often enough for him to suspect their hand in what ultimately happened.
The last day he ever saw Ava, she’d been excited to share some news with him.  He remembered how happy she seemed.  Before she could tell him, Sonny called to arrange a meeting, saying it was urgent and couldn’t wait.  Ava encouraged him to go and said they would talk that evening.  Three hours later she was gone.  It was as if she’d just disappeared.  The vanishing act caused him to panic and he called everyone they knew, including Sonny and her aunt Dorothy, asking if she had contacted them.
“Why, honey, I haven’t seen her.  You two have a lovers’ spat?” Dot’s voice had drawled, the southern accent accentuated a little too much.  He’d learned long ago that southern hospitality was genuine in some, but with Dorothy he had known to watch his back.  Her knives were sharp.  She was as tough as nails, and he didn’t believe her.  Sonny had been no help either, denying any knowledge of Ava’s whereabouts.
Hours turned into days; weeks followed, blending into months until a year had passed with no sign of her.  The police found no clues, ultimately deciding she had left him on her own free will, encouraging him to move on.  He never did.  He turned to the only ‘friends’ he trusted at that time, his old buddies he referred to as alcohol and drugs, once again finding solace in the vices that Ava had given him reason to leave.  An overdose and breakdown followed, and he spent two months in a detox facility getting clean and sober.  The day he walked out, he quit the business, fired Sonny, and became a recluse.  A marriage and divorce happened, but he never forgot the woman he loved.
Of all people, it had been his daughter who found her.  Dear sweet Haley and her tech-savvy boyfriend who, until that point, he’d always found a little annoying.  They broke the news to him a week ago with Haley giving him a hug and saying before she left, “Dad, there’s something else, but she owes you that explanation.  Go to her.”  He had no idea how Haley had known about Ava, yet she’d made the same mistake he had all those years ago with the assumption Ava meant something to an old friend of his.  Uncertain what had given his daughter that notion, his own belief at the time had been driven by stupidity and insecurity.  He had wasted too much time then, and he was doing so now.

Beside a garden wall
When stars are bright
You are in my arms
The nightingale tells his fairy tale
A paradise where roses bloom

He glanced at his watch; Edinburgh was about an hour and half away.  If he left now, he might just miss the worst of the traffic, have time to check in to his hotel and shower.  Beyond that, it was anyone’s guess with much depending on Ava. 
As he drove away, the sights of Pitlochry behind him, he started to have hope.  He’d told himself to expect nothing, but insist on answers and to walk away with assurances she was happy.  He made no promises to himself.

Though I dream in vain
In my heart it will remain
My stardust melody
The memory of love’s refrain

  
(©Veronica Randolph Batterson)  
  

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Caledonia

Flying over Edinburgh Castle
Historically, the word “Caledonia” is the Latin name given to northern Britain when Britannia was occupied by the Roman Empire; poetically, it is the name used when referring to Scotland. When Scottish singer and songwriter Dougie MacLean became homesick for his native country in 1977, he wrote a folk ballad expressing the depth of his love for the place of his birth. His Caledonia has been covered by many artists over the years, but I think the most beautiful version is his own.  It is widely recognized, often by many, as the unofficial anthem of the country. 
When I visited Edinburgh a few months ago, my husband and I enjoyed a couple of day tours from the city.  One took us into the Highlands and it was a long day but worth every hour of the journey.  Our guide was informative, witty and eager to share a great deal of knowledge not only about what we were seeing, but also about the music of Scottish artists.  We listened to many singers, including MacLean, which accompanied our views of the beautiful Scottish scenery.  All were interspersed with the rich history of Caledonia, and it was easy to see and understand why there is love and pride for such a wonderful place.
 While there were many highlights on that particular day, seeing Ardverikie Castle on the shore of Loch Laggan, and being able to photograph and interact with some Highland cattle (or “hairy coos” to the locals) were pretty special to me.  Ardverike, by the way, was the estate used as the fictional “Glenbogle” in the BBC series Monarch of the Glen, which ran from 2000-2005.  Being a “boglie”, it was interesting to learn there are six cottages on the grounds for vacation and holiday rentals.  Perhaps that will go on the bucket list for next time. 
Edinburgh
As some of my ancestral ties are in Scotland, I like to think that’s the reason I’m drawn to it.  The history of the Jacobites and all of those Kings named James appeal to me.  And Ben Nevis, Fort William, Rob Roy, Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Alexander Graham Bell.  The telephone, television, penicillin, radar, lawn mower, toaster, refrigerator, criminal fingerprinting…all due to Scottish inventors. The list is long; the history extensive.
I’ve enjoyed many Burns Night suppers, Highland Games, and The Feast of the Haggis events (even though I always extend the haggis to my husband in exchange for his scotch).  A Scottish character plays prominently in my latest manuscript which is out with agents right now; a fictional male lead with ties to Caledonia will be featured in the next one that I’m currently researching.  It seems writers wish to tell stories with a Caledonian plot, and readers enjoy being taken on that fictional journey.  There is something mystical about the place. 
Another bucket list visit for me will be seeing the ruins of (New) Slains Castle on Cruden Bay in Aberdeenshire (between Aberdeen and Peterhead), built after 1597 and rebuilt in the early nineteenth century.  It reportedly was Bram Stoker’s inspiration when he wrote Dracula; it was also part of the historical fiction of The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley.  Its location was just a little too far north for us to make this last visit.
Finally, as for MacLean’s Caledonia, I agree with a reviewer that said, “One of the best songs ever written to express love for a person’s home nation…”  The lyrics follow below. It, along with many of his other songs including Some Hearts, Weather Eye, Loving One, The Gift (Fly Away), and Feel So Near, can be found on iTunes.

Caledonia

I don’t know if you can see the changes that have come over me
In these last few days I’ve been afraid that I might drift away
So I’ve been telling old stories, singing songs, that make me think about where I come from
That’s the reason why I seem so far away today

Let me tell you that I love you and I think about you all the time
Caledonia you’re calling me and now I’m going home
But if I should become a stranger you know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had

I have moved and I’ve kept on moving, proved the points that I needed proving
Lost the friends that I needed losing, found others on the way
I have tried and I’ve kept on trying, stolen dreams, yes there’s no denying
I have traveled hard sometimes with conscience flying somewhere in the wind

Let me tell you that I love you and I think about you all the time
Caledonia you’re calling me and now I’m going home
But if I should become a stranger you know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had

Now I’m sitting here before the fire, the empty room the forest choir
The flames that couldn’t get any higher they’ve withered now they’ve gone
But I’m steady thinking, my way is clear and I know what I will do tomorrow
When the hands have shaken and the kisses flow then I will disappear

Let me tell you that I love you and I think about you all the time
Caledonia you’re calling me and now I’m going home
But if I should become a stranger you know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had


Monday, February 6, 2017

New Work on Fine Art America

I have some new photographs on Fine Art America that were taken in December 2016 during a visit to the Memphis Zoo.  Below are a few screen shots; the higher resolution images can be viewed at  www.veronica-batterson.pixels.com.

Over the last few years, I've added over three hundred photos, which can be purchased in various formats.  From wall art in canvas, acrylic, metal, wood, posters and framed and unframed prints, to home decor which includes throw pillows, duvets, shower curtains, hand towels, bath towels, bath sheets, and beach towels...all can be created from the images on Fine Art America and through Pixels' site. Also available are tote bags, carry-all pouches, portable batteries, greeting cards, phone cases, t-shirts, and coffee mugs. Fine Art America offers a 100% guarantee on all purchases.

Please check it out, and a reminder: these images are copyright protected. Downloading without permission is, well, not permitted, not kind, and something you shouldn't do (especially if you crop and remove copyright/watermark--very wrong!).  Plus, taking a low resolution image doesn't hold a key to buying a top quality one anyway. I do, however, appreciate anyone wishing to share the images on social media, giving me the required credit. The Fine Art America watermark will not appear on any items purchased. Thanks for looking and let me know if you make any purchases. It's appreciated.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Five Years and Counting

Universal Symbol of Compassion
On January 10, 2012, this blog was introduced as “The Reluctant Blogger” and I thought the name summed up its existence rather well.  I was reluctant.  I had been encouraged to start blogging as a way of marketing myself and my books, but it wasn’t appealing to me because I never thought anyone would care to read what I had to say.  In a sea of bloggers with a multitude of opinions on just about everything, how could I compete?  I felt I’d probably sink, not swim, because content was more important than simply saying you had a blog.  You needed readers.  Plus, consistency was relevant, too.  So reluctantly I waded in, setting a goal of at least one post per month and never believing it would last past the first year.
Sometimes I surprise myself.  Here I am five years later, still hanging around with things to say.  I’ve met and in some months surpassed the monthly posting minimum; finding topics to write about has gotten a little easier.  Being able to share the posts on social media has garnered a nice amount of readers, and I’m very happy I didn’t give up.  “The Reluctant Blogger” ceased to exist some time ago, and the title is simply my name.
I’m also happy that I didn’t take the blog into the direction I was considering.  I have strong opinions about things, and there were times that I felt sharing them on a blog would be the perfect outlet.  Given the current climate of opinions that are expressed on Facebook alone, I’m glad I didn’t take that route.  Eclectic, varied, and safe are good ways to describe this place and that’s how I intend for it to remain.  No themes are in the works either.
Speaking of that current climate, however, I will say this: words are important.  How and how often they are used are relevant, too.  We benefit from utilizing such words as ‘Thank you’, ‘Please’, ‘Excuse me’, and ‘I’m sorry’.  Use them and use them often.  I remember once being told by a server in a restaurant that I was the most grateful person she had ever encountered.  This came after about the fifth ‘thank you’ I had given her for simply bringing something to the table.  “Thank you,” I replied.  That made her laugh, but I was serious.  These basic responses are key to building values; and values allow for kindness, compassion, and courtesy. And we need these things now more than ever.
So be kind. Be thoughtful. Stop categorizing and judging. We’re a complicated lot, with many shades and backgrounds that make us tick.  Respect that.  And if you want respect, you have to give it.  Treat others the way you want to be treated, and hold yourself to the same standards you expect in others.  Be accountable.  It’s important to have opinions; it’s not okay to express them by hurting others or justifying them by being contradictory.  And while I don’t think any of us should feel entitled, I do believe everyone is deserving of the basic necessities of life.  Know the difference.  Work hard and set goals.  Humility is a strength, not a weakness.
Finally, I didn’t know where I was going with this blog post.  Usually I’ll work on a piece for a few days before posting it, but I realized last night that today was the fifth anniversary.  If what you’re reading sounds a little convoluted or “preachy”, it’s because the post was written quickly to make the date.  It really is a moment of musings.  My apologies.
Thank you (there are those words again) for reading what I have to say here.  It isn’t much, but I try to make it a little interesting. 
Onward and peace to all.