Saturday, November 16, 2013

Things I learned from Sissy Kat. May she rest in a sunbeam.

Things I learned from Sissy-cat

Anything is better after a nap.

If it doesn’t serve you, hack it up (hairball, food, pieces of string). Purging your life of things that no longer serve you is a good thing.

Don’t settle for something you don’t find pleasing (dirty litter box, lumpy pillow, some people).

Don’t hesitate to speak up (meow) if you have something important to add.

You can always go back to the bowl for seconds. You don’t have to suck it all down in one bite.

A sunbeam is worth a million dollars.

Learn to purr. And purr well and often.

Love a human unconditionally, at least once in your life.

With love to my tuxedo kitty. 

May you find cans of tuna, feathers on string, a soft pillow, and all of your friends that have passed before you. And someone to scratch behind your ears until we meet again across the rainbow bridge.

One of your humans,
Rhett DeVane

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Ode to a Big Freakin' Can of Tuna


From what I heard, the cashier at Sam’s Club even thought this was over-sized  Have to admit, it’s a monstrous amount of tuna: 4 pound, 2.5 ounces to be precise. Even I can’t consume that many “tiny-fish” sandwiches and I like tuna. A lot.

 I’ll refer to this as the BFC from this point forward, save myself some typing. Special thanks to Gina Edwards, our lovely hand model, for her part in artfully displaying the BFC.

The BFC held enough to make tuna salad for the gang at the writers’ retreat on St. George Island, Florida, November of 2013. This is a serious-minded group of scribes, a talented bunch that will work endless hours pounding out a new rough draft, but still take time to yammer and drink coffee. Gallons of coffee. And chocolate, did I mention chocolate?

I rescued the BFC from the trash. Washed it several times, used some environment-friendly spray cleaner, yet it still reeks of fish. Thing is a work of art, the hulk hero of aluminum cans. And it doesn't deserve some landfill as its final resting place. Heck no. I’m planting something in the BFC, maybe catnip since the scent won’t disappear in this century. My cat family will love it
The BFC illustrates something I have always known: writers can take anything, anywhere and weave a fantastic tale around it. One tidbit of overheard dialog in the line at Whole Foods, one flash of shared angst with a stranger, one glimpse of a baby’s grin: there’s a story in there, perhaps a novel. And we will find it and write it, in different voices, tenses, and settings. Yet the shared humanity will echo in our words.

Something as ordinary and benign (mostly, if you don’t count the odor) as a BFC can inspire, make us ask questions, create the answers.

It’s how we make sense of the world. Thank you, BFC, for reminding me of this.

Rhett DeVane

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cross-Purpose Revelation

Cross-Purpose Revelation

Seems I can’t spend time at the beach without having at least one epiphany…something about water rushing to shore and time to think without interruption. Add being a writer into the mix, and the revelations trip all over each other trying to be the most profound.

This trip, the Cross-Purpose Revelation beat out the others. No worry. They’ll be back for seconds like redneck relatives at an all-you-can-eat potluck dinner.

The wind raged the entire four days, flinging sand into the air. The late September sun beat down, oblivious to the fact the first day of fall loomed. Waves crashed to shore, beating the shells to pumice. A scattering of North Florida surfers—thrilled over the churning sea—fought the rip tide on their short boards.

At one spot, a narrow sandbar confused the incoming surf. Primary waves combated secondary waves, sending fountains of spray into the air.

Cross-purpose waves, like life, often came from opposite directions, buffeting me. Which way to go? What’s the most important? What crisis requires the majority of attention? The questions bombarded my brain. Meanwhile, the waves crashed, blended. Ultimately, they all made it to shore, licked a small mark on the sand, then sucked back into the whole.

Where was the grand epiphany? Here goes.

No matter what turmoil, what conflict, what indecision, what cross-purposes life flings your way, the outcome is the same. You make a small mark, then your spirit blends back into the common ocean. And you try not to let the waves pound you to mush.

I must get back to work. Stop all this thinking. Epiphanies are exhausting.

Monday, September 02, 2013

The Fun and Trials of Being a Writer

I often wonder what other people do--those not equally blessed and cursed with a need to write. Can they sit and have a meal without picking out details of their fellow diners' dress and gestures? Do they ignore the chit-chat around them? Can they just have a ice-cold beer and blackened grouper sandwich without imagining some story about the blond senior biker woman sitting two seats down?

Well, I can't. And a trip to a local waterfront eatery/cantina yields so much material for future Southern fiction novels, I nearly hurt myself entering snippets on my smartphone's notepad. Why do I need to invent dialogue when I can borrow it for free?

Here you go...

"We have only the finest Walmart wine. The kind with the screw-off cap."

"She's not listening. She's back on the crack again."
"Hey, you're not the only woman in my life."
"Sorry I was lookin' down your shirt."
"I don't know how your liver still functions."
"Gonna be a good day. Most of the staff's still sober."
"You sure are hanging out here a lot. What, did you piss off your wife again?"

Add to this: a rousing conversation about Duck Dynasty--with said biker lady and her, I think, granddaughter. Then, there were the signs...the "no pissin' off the dock" sign (above) and the one suggesting you not leave food unattended because of marauding seagulls. Lord help.

See, this is why I love the South. May hate the heat, the humidity, and some of the narrow is a breeding ground for my writing.

Plus, remember...I can poke fun. I'm from here.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Clean Feet and Good Sleep

I have certain rituals—tiny procedures to tame life, force it to “do right.” Governments topple, wacked-out shooters gun down innocents, and tornadoes swipe subdivisions off the map. But if I just cater to specific steps, my speck of space makes sense. Most of the time, I don’t question the origins of the rites. When I do, I uncover nostalgic wisps.

“You will not sleep well if you don’t wash your feet.” My Grandma DeVane’s warning pops into my mind as I lather a thick washcloth. Had I glanced up fast enough, I might have seen her standing beside me with a bar of Ivory soap (so pure it floats!) in one hand and a thin wet rag in the other.

Suppose parents and grandparents tell children all sorts of well-intended lies for fun, or necessity. Several years passed before I dropped the belief that North Carolina cows had two legs shorter on one side so they wouldn’t topple on a slope.

My dad, the jokester. Small wonder I’m a comedian.

I dropped the notion of an obese, jolly dude delivering presents by five or six when my little friends started to laugh at my gullibility. That whole reindeer, globetrotting deal was a stretch, even for me.

But clean feet equals good sleep must have made sense. I’m sure Grandma took one look at my rawhide soles and thought, “oh, heck no,” especially during the summer when I ran around like a yard dog until darkness and mosquitoes chased me inside.

She could’ve said, “You’ll not put those filthy feet on my white sheets.” Too much like a put-down. We Southerners prefer to cushion criticism when possible—wrap it in sugar, serve it with a smile.

Now, fifty years later, I sit on the vanity stool with the wet washcloth dripping on the tile and think about other things my adults told me. Pretty is as pretty does; A smile is your best make-up; and Can’t, never could.

I feel a rush of gratitude for them, those grown-ups that imparted positive—sometimes funny or bizarre—wisdom. Adults that gave me rituals to tame life.

Too bad the rest of this sleep-deprived world doesn't know this secret. I lather again, wash between my toes, then swipe up and over the ankles.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Helping in a small way--the little flute that could.

The Little Flute That Could

My middle room closet is a sucking black hole where once-loved stuff collects--a mini horde of nice things wishing for a useful place in the world. Last week, one of those things raced to its new home, via the nice folks at UPS.

Should've known when I wiggled the case from the top shelf and both cats hid beneath the bed. My experiment with becoming a flute master--years past now--had been ill-advised. Yes, I managed the middle-tone notes, even some of those one octave down. But when I screeched out the high tones, the tectonic plates shifted, the Monarch butterflies changed course, and the animals headed for cover. Plus, I nearly passed out with the effort. Best, I stick with the guitar.

So there she rested in her blue velvet enclave, wishing she could meet someone, anyone, who might be able to produce silken sounds. Not me, clearly. Then I read a Facebook post from my friend Paula Kiger, about how she donated her flute to a band in Moore, Oklahoma. The devastating tornadoes took a huge toil there--lives, property, schools. Like so many folks, I watched the television coverage, wishing I could somehow help. Some small way...

Paula put me in touch with a gracious teacher who is spearheading the band instrument drive. A company there takes the donated instruments, gives them a tune-up, and a student that might not have a chance otherwise is provided with the means to make music. I love that!

For a few dollars, the people at UPS secured, wrapped, and handled my little flute. I tracked her progress across the country, and Angie sent me a Facebook message when she made it to Oklahoma.

"Guess what came in the mail today??!?!!" Angie messaged, "A very special flute! And a really
nice card. Thank you so very much. It plays very well!"

How many folks like me have perfectly good band instruments idling in their closets? The kids that once loved them, maybe even tormented the family while learning to play, are long gone to college and other lives. What if those instruments could make their way into the hands of deserving students? And all it cost was a few bucks to UPS...

If you would like to contact Angie, she prefers to be reached  via email:

Tell her Rhett DeVane sent you. Then mail off your flute, horn, whatever...and wait for that warm glow to start--you know, the one that cranks up when good flows from one person to the next. 

We're all in this together. Please share this with your friends!

Peace to the Little Flute That Could. 


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Beauty isn't everthing: Lessons from Mom's kitchen


I enjoyed lunch at local bistro recently. Like most of these small eateries, it was decorated to invoke an artsy feel: modern paintings, welcoming color palate, intimate seating, and an outdoor patio for those seasonal days when the Southern humidity stepped aside. Though I appreciated the ambiance and, after sampling the food, would return, I couldn’t help but think of the vast difference between the trendy art of food presentation and the Southern down-home style of cooking from my mom’s kitchen.

My mama didn’t worry about “pretty food.” I can’t recall a time when she actually garnished a plate with a carrot trimmed into a curlicue or used a tiny rectangular plate to center a sandwich the size of a marshmallow. No reduced sauces swirled around the roast like it had been attacked by a kid’s Spirograph. More likely, it rested in a puddle of thick gravy. And I guarantee you, the meat was bigger than a two-inch square.

She didn’t concern herself with the concepts of complex tastes or textures. Just good food, and plenty of it. Pinch of this, tad of that. Mix it till it looks right. Dig your hands into the dough and feel if it needs more moisture. Shell the peas and cook them fresh from the garden. Chill thick scarlet slices of beefsteak tomatoes, ripened on the vines. Whip up a hoecake of cornbread—no box mix—and sear it in a cast iron skillet.

Small wonder I was leery of trying my hand at cooking until I reached my late teens. My gravy turned out lumpy. The cake suffered “sad spots.” And none of my initial efforts were much to look at.

Here’s where the life lesson came in. “Don’t worry, sugar, if your cake has a crack clean through. We can heal that with icing, and besides, if it tastes good, that’s what really matters. Beauty isn’t everything.”

Beauty isn’t everything. Imagine that.

“You will get better and better, the more you practice. You can do anything you set your mind to.”

Profound truths uncovered. Thanks, Mom.