Guest Blogger Susan M. Toy

Nice post

Reade and Write

This week I would like to welcome guest blogger Susan M. Toy, whose blogs I enjoy very much and who has much to teach writers:


 joan didion quote

Kind Readers,

Since I am an Author, you mean the world to me, because without you the words I write have no meaning at all. So I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you, from the bottom of my heart, for taking the time to read what I write. You make me the Author that I am, and I owe you everything!

You, on the other hand, owe me nothing. You’ve done your bit by reading. You definitely do not owe me a written review on an online site – especially if you’re not used to writing reviews of whatever you read. I’m speaking for myself here when I say that…

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Video: Music from a Neanderthal flute

Vox Populi

Found by archeologist Ivan Turk in a Neanderthal campsite at Divje Babe in northwestern Slovenia, this instrument made from the femur of a cave bear is estimated to be 43,000-80,000 years old. The flute’s four finger holes seem to match four notes of the diatonic (Do, Re, Mi…) scale.   In the video, Slovenian musician Ljuben Dimkaroski plays a clay replica of the flute.

The prehistoric instrument does indeed produce the whole and half tones of the diatonic scale, so completely, in fact, that Dimkaroski is able to play fragments of several compositions by Beethoven, Verdi, Ravel, Dvořák, and others, as well as some free improvisations “mocking animal voices.”  Dimkaroski says that he figured out how to play the instrument in a dream.


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Doug Anderson: The Rich

Vox Populi


And it came to pass

there was no place left

to pile the garbage, no place

to live, so the rich pushed all the others

into the outer darkness to die.

They had no one to sell to,

to squeeze for money, so they sat

before their pyres of burning tires

and fondled their rings, their gold teeth,

and gambled away the buttons on their shirts.

copyright 2015 Doug Anderson

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Felicity Harley

Reading Recommendations

I “know” Felicity Harley through Bequia … although we’ve never actually met in person, we have this little island and several friends in common. Felicity very kindly read and reviewed my novel, Island in the Clouds, from the perspective of someone who knows the setting of Bequia very well, and she gave the book an excellent endorsement, for which I am grateful. I hope we may meet some day soon.

787Felicity Harley

What is your latest release and what genre is it?Portraits and Landscapes – a collection of short stories

Quick description:Portraits and Landscapes is an eclectic collection of short stories about all of us. The first stories in the collection are about failed romance and how many of us constantly and painfully search for connection in our lives. Other stories take us across the globe, and speak in a variety of voices, which give us brief…

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Portraits and Landscapes Autumn

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Ode to Autumn by John Keats

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,          5
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease;   10
For Summer has o’erbrimm’d their clammy cells.
 Fear by Felicity Harley

At the end of summer there is a

sudden cool in the air.

The sun makes the garden so clean and clear.

It’s the space between the seasons,

the one that I dread.

Bittersweet and beautiful

with its premonition of the cold and dark to come.

Two takes on Autumn – John Keats and mine.

I’ve always loved the mythology of Demeter and Persephone.  Of how she was carried away by Hades her uncle as his bride, with the tacit support of her father, Zeus. Of how her mother Demeter made the earth barren until she was allowed to come back.   Of how Hades tricked Persephone by offering her a pomegranate seed, which she unwittingly ate before she went back to her mother, and was then forced to return to Hades regularly for four months a year. Of how her mother mourns this return every year, by giving us so much beauty and then taking it away from us in deepest. darkest winter.

Portraits and Landscapes – Heather

Portraits and Landscapes

“So, fear not, dear reader, this too shall pass and your Facebook newsfeed will go back to cat videos and kids singing Let It Go,” Bo Stern, a pastor in Bend, Oregon whose husband Steve has ALS, writes in her blog.

She nonetheless urges people to do the Ice Bucket Challenge, hoping that public interest and support of government-funded research of this terrible disease will be increased.

When I was twelve years old and at boarding school I met Heather Campbell. Heather was one of those people who are never boring. She painted, she played piano, she acted and she loved Latin, and in particular chemistry experiments that went wrong. We immediately became best friends and we stayed that way until she died in 2008 at the age of sixty from ALS. We had so many adventures and shared so much together, never loosing touch, even though we travelled and lived all over the world at various times in our life, finally settling down a continent apart. Over the last five years of her life, I saw her body deteriorate and let her down as a result of ALS, but she never ceased to be the vibrant, positive energetic woman that I love.

Her husband Nick wrote: “Heather’s smile, her eyes, her kindness, her style, her sense of rightness, her music, her sense of fun, her love of nature (and cats), her love of adventure have all been absorbed in parts of me and made me into a better person. I cannot lose that and so will carry her with me always.” Amen to that.

I dedicate this wonderful poem to a best friend – FOREVA, Heather.

Parable of Immortality – Henry Van Dyke, 1852-1933

I am standing on the seashore

When a ship at my side

Spreads her white sails to the morning breeze

And heads towards the blue ocean.


She is an object of beauty and strength,

And I stand and watch

Until at last she hangs

Like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky

Come down to mingle with each other.


Then someone at my side says,

“There, she’s gone!”

Gone, gone where?

Gone from my sight – that is all.


She is just as large in mast and hull and spar

As she was when she left my side

And just as able to bear her load of living freight

To the place of destination.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her.





And just at the moment

When someone at my side says, “There she’s gone!”

There are other eyes watching her coming,

And other voices ready to take up the glad shout:

“Here she comes! Here she comes!”Scan 2014-8-22 0007 Scan 2014-8-22 0002 Scan 2014-8-22 0004-1 Scan 2014-8-22 0007-2

Organ Donation

Portraits and Landscapes


Two years ago I wrote a play that described the emotional process our family went through as my husband’s health deteriorated, and we waited for him to get a kidney transplant.


In June this year I was lucky enough to produce the play in Hartford, with a wonderful Ensemble called Hartbeat Ensemble,



Below is a short clip of the play made by videographer Max Moraga. We are now waiting for funding so that we can take it to high schools and colleges around the State of Connecticut, in order to raise awareness around the importance of organ donation.

Some Facts

Each day in the US, an average of 79 people receive organ transplants. However, an average of 18 people die each day waiting for transplants that can’t take place because of the shortage of donated organs.

The harsh reality however is that the number of candidates waiting transplant continue to dwarf the number of donor organs available.

  • As of May 4, 2009, the percentage of recipients who were still living 5-years after their transplant is noted below for kidney, heart, liver, and lung.
    • Kidney: 69.3%
    • Heart: 74.9%
    • Liver: 73.8%
    • Lung: 54.4%
  • In 2010, 62% of living donors were women. The statistic is reversed for deceased donation.
  • In 2010, 67% of all deceased donors were White, 16% were Black, 13% Hispanic and 2.3% Asian.
  • As of December 2011, the national waiting list was made up of 45% White, 29% Black, 18% Hispanic, and 7% Asian.
  • In 2007, (the most recent data) there were almost 2.5 million deaths in the U.S. Imagine if every one of those persons had donated.
  • Currently, more than 100 million people in the U.S. are signed up to be a donor—sign up and join them.

Right now, there are more than enough people waiting for an organ to fill a large football stadium twice over.


Portraits and Landscapes – South Harlem

photo 3photo 4photo 1I was recently in New York in Harlem. There has been quite a revitalization going on.   Perhaps I should call it an over “gentrification.” I am not sure what to think of it. There has been a huge change. It is no longer the gritty, soulful place it used to be. The Apollo still stands strong on 125th, and the Red Rooster crows loudly on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, where enough means buys you a splendid Sunday gospel brunch, with fried chicken, collard greens and macaroni pie.


Located in the northern section of NYC, Harlem is known as a major African-American residential, cultural and business center. It is also home to Africans from around the continent of Africa and one hears French and Portuguese frequently on the streets there.


It’s interesting that Harlem’s black population was at its highest in the 1950s.   However, in 2008 for the first time, the Census reported that it switched; blacks now holding only a 4 to 10 ratio.


Standing on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, I thought of its namesake, Frederick Douglass, born Frederick Augustus Washington Baily. A man who distinguished himself as a speaker and statesman; a great leader of the abolitionist movement in the United States.


A man who wrote on his arrival in Harlem:


“I have often been asked, how I felt when first I found myself on free soil. And my readers may share the same curiosity. There is scarcely anything in my experience about which I could not give a more satisfactory answer. A new world had opened upon me. If life is more than breath, and the ‘quick round of blood,’ I lived more in one day than in a year of my slave life. It was a time of joyous excitement which words can but tamely describe. In a letter written to a friend soon after reaching New York, I said: ‘I felt as one might feel upon escape from a den of hungry lions.’ Anguish and grief, like darkness and rain, may be depicted; but gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil.”


And who later wrote, once he left American soil for the first time:


“Eleven days and a half gone and I have crossed three thousand miles of the perilous deep. Instead of a democratic government, I am under a monarchical government. Instead of the bright, blue sky of America, I am covered with the soft, grey fog of the Emerald Isle [Ireland]. I breathe, and lo! the chattel [slave] becomes a man. I gaze around in vain for one who will question my equal humanity, claim me as his slave, or offer me an insult. I employ a cab—I am seated beside white people—I reach the hotel—I enter the same door—I am shown into the same parlour—I dine at the same table—and no one is offended… I find myself regarded and treated at every turn with the kindness and deference paid to white people. When I go to church, I am met by no upturned nose and scornful lip to tell me, ‘We don’t allow niggers in here!'” – from My Bondage and My Freedom.


As I walked slowly down this wide, busy, boulevard in South Harlem, from the Double Dutch a new high-end coffee shop to get a Cappuccino, and then next-door to get an almond croissant at the Patisserie Des Ambassades’, I wished Mr. Douglass would magically appear by my side. Oh, what might he say?


photo 3O how much more doth beauty beauteous seem,

By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!

The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem

For that sweet odour which doth in it live.

The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye

As the perfumed tincture of the roses,

Hang on such thorns and play as wantonly

When summer’s breath their masked buds discloses:

But, for their virtue only is their show,

They live unwoo’d and unrespected fade,

Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not so;

Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made:

And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,

When that shall fade, my verse distills your truth.


The Bard, Willie Shakespeare


This morning working with my roses I was reminded how much I love them.  With care and tending they give back so much.  And every now and then they prick your finger, reminding you that life is short, and full of those moments when beauty mixes with pain.

New York

photoI am always amazed when I come to the big apple.

I am here in New York, sitting on the subway and looking at the array of tired working poor heading into the city from the Bronx, Queens or Harlem, the tourists, the Wall Street guys.   My eyes vaguely take in an ad for “Bark a Box”, and I realize with a start that it’s a delivery service of goodies for dogs “tell us how big your dog’s bark is. we’ve got goodies for every dog size.”

Sitting underneath the ad there are a couple of good looking middle-aged French tourists. The woman is wearing a skirt the size of a hankie, and the man has his hand resting halfway up her thigh. The guy next to me lifts his eyes from the Wall Street Journal he is reading from time to time, to take in the brief glimpse of her underpants that she flashes at him as she crosses and recrosses her legs.

Once we get where we are going, Tribeca, we head towards a day care center that costs $4,000 a month.   We find it is a wonderful and magical place where children run around like brightly colored birds on amphetines.   We are treated to an hour of child development 101. As I drift in an out of this lengthy technical presentation, I glance at our fellow listeners; a couple of gay men, a slender black woman with a designer purse who looks like a model, and a Caroline Kennedy look alike, with a blue dress, matching blue purse, blue wellington boots and a diamond the size of a small island on her hand.   It ‘s the kind of place where parents should love to put their children, but we decide the baby is too small, and we flee before we have to pay the $100.00 registration fee.

It ‘s explained during the course of our tour that this center will make sure that your child passes the gauntlet of interviews it will have to take, in order to enter the top-rated kindergartens that surround us. Apparently it’s so competitive to get in, these children will need extensive portfolios by the time they are five. These include Jackson Pollock imitations and certificates to say that they have learned block building skills from an expert with a Phd. The principal of the school tells us that this skill guarantees potential advanced math abilities for the child in the future.

After that we walk around Soho, and stop in at Warby Parker. At one point we sit on the cobbled street surrounded by Dior, Channel and many other smaller designer stores. Fashionable people pass us. Slender older women with just the right outfits, gay men with large dogs, famous rock stars and atheletes. My daughter points one out to me, and says he has “g” status. I ask what that means, and she says “gangsta” status.

The footwear is amazing and deserves a piece all to itself. Finally we buy the baby a hat in Giggle. It’s only eighteen dollars and it makes a bold fashion statement. Our day is made complete when a crazy Russian immigrant sits next to us on a bench in Washington Square and asks me if I hate Spanish people. Needless to say, we hastily move on to buy an iced coffee, visit Duane Reede and head home.