On March 24th the governor of Washington State declared the “Stay Home. Stay Healthy” mandate. Here we are over 300 days later, fatigued, depressed, foggy, frustrated…and now hopeful. Hopeful that the pandemic will end this year, and America can get back to work. The second half of 2020 I began to read the daily “briefings” of American Historian Heather Cox Richardson. Her writings have helped me to place events into a perspective I would not have been able to do so on my own. It’s helped me, might help you, the link is at the bottom of the page.
John Oliver also makes me smile. I like his analogy of last week feeling like a person finishing a marathon, after breaking the ribbon and about to celebrate an official comes up, shakes your hand, and says, “Did you know that one million dogs are euthanized in shelters every day?” Just give us ONE DAY to feel the relief. PLEASE, just one day for those that survived the four year attack on America by Americans, can we have ONE day of hope?
Outside of politics I’ve been thinking about an old friend that passed away a few years ago. Jim joked about being a curmudgeon, but he really was a good-tempered easy-going old guy who had a divine level of dad jokes at the ready. There was an absence of family men in my upbringing. Mostly appeared as unreachable, or two dimensional. Grandpas lived in other states, my father had sleeping fits, and my uncles were loud, swearing, sons of bitches that belched loudly and with great showmanship at the Thanksgiving table upsetting the aunties. Life has a beautiful way of balancing itself. If you are missing a family relationship, say a sister, parent, or, heck, a whole family, somehow life brings you a family. I do not know how it does it, but it is so welcomed. Jim was welcomed into my life as an adopted grandpa. We met at a poetry open mic. Here is the one photo I have of us, taken at his first book launch.
He supported my work, greeted me with a smile, asked me what I was up to in my writing world, shared with me what he was marveling at that day. A wonderful gentleman. I believe it would be egotistical of me to think I was special to him because he treated everyone this way. All people and everything about this world were special to him. He passed “into the cosmos” in October 2019. I do not know how much support I gave him, but he helped me more than I was able to ever share or express to him.
My poem “Leaf Tattoo” was one of his favorites. Often when I see a leaf tattoo or now, the little buds of a new leaf on the branches, I am reminded of his kindness. I’m thankful for people like Jim. I’m glad he appeared in my life, and for other “adopted” family that visited, albeit, only for a short time. They are true treasures.
Leaf Tattoo You can you feel it In my city The change of air as wind folds in fall’s weather.
Orange leaves appear on the sidewalks of Holly Street. No worms to dance them back to soil.
Cement laden, laid on the roadside in random patterns leave a tattoo, imprinted on the stone. Five pointed stars a tree hand pressed by feet and rain bleed orange ink for all to see.
By winter the marks wash away By spring, bright green babies wave at us from their mother’s arm borne back into our memory.
Last evening I received my second Mayor’s Arts Award. Allow a moment of confession, just to help the editor in me get back to sleep. You see I woke up at 2 a.m. bothered. I prepared a speech expecting a five-six minute read time. Excited to share a bit of WHO I am and WHAT I do. However, twenty minutes prior to the event I was told I would be the first person up, please keep it to a sharp 3 minutes.
As I type a “Breaking News” alert on BBC Radio announces that Prince Philip, 96, Queen Elizabeth’s husband, is retiring from public service. Perhaps I should take some pointers from Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His speeches were known to be short and to the point. In Canada one time he said, “I declare this thing open, whatever it is.” Short. Sweet.
For completely personal reasons, which this whole website is up for completely personal reasons, I need to post my complete speech. RED is what was removed to accommodate the schedule. -SPL
Thank you Mayor Linville and the Bellingham Arts Commission for awarding “Bellingham Art Beat” the Mayor’s Arts Award, it is a great honor.
I am the producer of the program. Boosie, the host, couldn’t be here tonight. She sends her thanks. She is on assignment on a sandy beach off the coast of Cuba. Poor girl.
I’d like to also extend a special thank you to the many dedicated listeners to the program and the 60 plus guests who have appeared on “Bellingham Art Beat “over the last two seasons, especially three previous guests who are also receiving awards tonight, Mary Gillilan, Fredrick Dent and Lisa Spicer. A town is only as great as its’ people. The people of Bellingham are extraordinary!
I’m in the story collecting and sharing business. I particularly love biographies. It is my belief that testimonies have a sort of power. A person’s story when shared can alert a listener to the possibilities toward their own solution.
I’m mesmerized at the properties of storytelling in general, whether shared around a campfire, read in a book, presented on stage, or projected in IMAX. Telling a story is human. Our society has punishments for people who tell false stories with intent to harm. We value words, tales, history and truth, even embellished truth.
Stories are all around us. In 2010 I went looking for my own story. After my dissolved 21 year marriage, I moved to Bellingham to be closer to my family. But that is not where my story starts.
Born in Seattle, and raised in the sleepy and slightly odd truck stop town of Federal Way. A town that, at the time, had the distinct problem of too many trees and not enough strip malls.
As I shared in my BTV interview, I discovered television broadcasting and field production in my junior year of high school. It was my first career love. I worked in field and studio production for about four years, then a decade later I returned to a related field of cable commercial insertion.
Moving to Bellingham I landed a job with the beloved KVOS TV, up there on Ellis. Since the sale of KVOS in 2012, I have worked at a variety of temporary jobs doing what I can to stay in Bellingham.
When I first moved here I asked my brother what is the best way to learn the town and meet new people, he said “Volunteer.” I tried volunteering at a few places before I found a perfect fit as a radio producer and host broadcasting on KMRE 102.3 Spark Radio in 2011-2015. In 2016 I decided to offer a fresh radio program for air at the new station KZAX 94.9 Make.Shift Radio.
Producing my radio program reminds me of my television days. Radio and television are cousins. This work keeps me connected to the original passion. I do it for free. I simply love it, and I will continue to do it until it stops being fun.
By this summer Bellingham Art Beat will rotate on a total of three stations in the Northwest, online and over the airwaves.
Often people approach me with an idea for a radio program. You can see the fever in their eyes! There are many good ideas out there, but most things “good” take time to make.
People think this is easy to do. It’s not easy. It’s [Radio] a craft as much as any art form, and it takes time to learn. It takes time to research a guest, compile questions that will spur stimulating conversation for the audience. It takes time to edit the work. I’m talking, for example, editing 30 minutes of an interview down to ten. That persons story needs to be represented well. Their words respected. Bellingham Art Beat is a half-hour weekly radio show; each show takes at least four hours to produce, so that is about 16-20 hours a month volunteered.
If there is one common denominator with the artists I have interviewed over the years it’s perseverance. They fight for their idea, roll up their sleeves and work to make their business, class, band, play, collaboration, project a reality.
I’d like to close with the reading of a poem that came to me at the right time, and seeded hope in my heart when it was very tender. And I’d like to read this as a “Thank You” to the guests who have shared their story with me, and allowed me to share it with you, the listeners.
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
2015 seems like an amplified version of 2014 don’t you think? Except this year we had the added entertainment of an American Presidential race, promotional “stuff” for another Star Wars movie a la Disney, Kim’s booty and the Pope’s world tour to distract us. Finally, sick of the violence and injustice, MORE citizens took to the streets! From Paris, to South Carolina’s Ravenel Bridge to Bellingham Washington, citizens unified in mass against war, terrorism, police violence, and the environment. Round and round we go.
With only a few days left in 2015 it seems the right time to write a Christmas Letter. My mom use to mail an end-of-the-year letter to family and friends, near and far, sharing the highlights of our family’s year. It is in that spirit that I write to you today.
Perhaps you treat these letters like fruit cake. If that’s the case then I leave you here, in the third paragraph, simply wishing you & yours a happy, warm holiday and prosperous new year. Also, it’s important for me to add a BIG Thank You! Thank you for visiting my page and buying SPL poetry.
However, if curiosity is creeping around your ankles, making it’s way up the leg, securing you in your seat for, say, the next five minutes, then I welcome your company. Nostalgia is a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. You are a “happy personal association” and I welcome your presence.
My Christmas Card movie features the SPL staff at it again. This year we are working as a team to beautify our surroundings, sharing the joy with our neighbors. Living on the 48th parallel our winters are long and dark. The sun sets about 4:30 pm and stays down until 8 in the morning. A string of lights is helpful, happy and welcomed.
Blessings to you and yours & Happy 2016!
~Shannon, Brad, Vince, Robert & Chris.
(Click our photo to watch our home movie)
My Poetic 2015
The year started off in PEACE. On New Years Eve World Peace Poets, Betty, Carla, C.J., Carol and I met at the “Peace Pole” in Fairhaven with another group for peace. We lit candles at dusk, tossed paper crane prayers into the sea, then joined hands in a moment of prayer for the new year.
Later in February all FIVE of the “Peace Sisters” published “Peace Poems, Vol I”. We included an award ceremony with the book launch. There are many people in Bellingham and Vancouver, B.C. who stand for peace and understanding. We wanted to recognize them as “Ambassadors of Peace”
World Peace Poets encourage harmony through words for international writers and promote public readings.
In March my poem “Voice on the Trail” was accepted for a wall display in the Bellingham Repertory Dance Company’s “A Night at the Gallery”
In April I joined in the celebration of “The Bard of Bellingham’s” book launch! Beloved +80 yr old Jim Milstead, a well known poet, (finally) released the much anticipated book of poetry “Collage”. Congrats Jim!
For a second time, it was my (well-protected) pleasure to feature at Western Washington University’s Erotic Poetry Night. Such a fun time!
In May I read at Erica Reed’s Poetry Gallery, representing Village Books Poetry Group. This new, quarterly event allows each of the over 22 poetry groups in the Bellingham area to share for 3-5 minutes. It’s a night of cross-pollination, networking and good words. Erica plans on continuing this event into 2016. Look for it in the community calendars!
June: after an exhilarating experience reading on a street corner for the Bike/Poetry Seattle group Mob Rolls in May, I was hit by lightning! Putting in a call with the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, “Poets’ Corner” was born! An exciting new living art display for Art Walk participants. Poets take over a corner, read to the passing masses! Poets’ Corner ran from June-November, co-hosted by Lucas Nydam. It is a fun experiment. Due to the winter weather it is currently on hiatus until April 1, 2016.
Featuring for Everett Poetry Night and Poetry Night in Bellingham within seven days of each other was stimulating to say the least. The audience was warm and accepting, and my books sold! This was my first year featuring for open mics.The change of perspective, audience member to performer, was refreshing. Am I ready for more? I hope so. It’s a great responsibility to feature. The high is amazing and I hope to do it more in 2016.
For July I found myself reaching into new physical and emotional territory. The Lament for the Dead was an 2015 on-line movement about personalizing the victims of police violence. My poem “Wallow in Ashes” was accepted. Also, I returned to my old stomping grounds South King County as a feature poet for Auburn Days. One of my goals for 2015 was to feature outside of Bellingham. I am thankful to Everett and Auburn for letting a circuit-newbie take the stage.
July marked the end of my time at KMRE 102.3 SPARK Radio. I started volunteering with SPARK back in 2011 producing the classic blues show “The Playhouse” that features the blues from 1920-70’s, and occasionally stepping in as an afternoon LIVE DJ, running the “Board of Doom”. Later, in 2013, Jonathan Winter asked me to help him with a show he envisioned where folks that love music share their music story. The New Americana Hour was born! In addition to those two programs I also recorded local poets for an award winning feature called “Poetic Moments”. You can learn more about my radio time at KMRE here. What a wonderful family the Museum of Electrical Invention is! It was hard to say good-bye, but I am thankful to of worked beside some of the northwest’s most influential, giving, and creative characters.
September the Peace Sisters were recognized for their publication and “Read-In” events by Writers International Network . The ceremony was held in Richmond, British Columbia along with recipient poets and artists from India, Mexico, Korea, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. I am moved and very thankful to WIN for this award.
October was an amazing month. October 2015 marked my fifth year in Bellingham. I am touched by the kindness this community has shown me. I wanted to give back and do it the “Bellingham Way” = do it for charity.
I wanted to coordinate a musical album featuring artists from Bellingham and Seattle, but would any band want to be on it? And WHAT charity would be the benefactor? Then, these two questions were answered within a week of each other. Many band members I contacted grew up with music in the home and/or were introduced to music through a school program. These programs cost money. Blue Skies for Children helps low-income, homeless and foster children in Whatcom County with music lessons and musical instrument rentals. The 17 bands that donated songs to this album are “paying it forward” for future musicians. In October “Blue Skies for Bellingham” was released in time for the Blue Skies for Children charity auction.
“This album together with the original cover art by esteemed painter/musician Meghan Yates, are submissions for Blue Skies for Children’s Annual Dinner and Charity Auction. All seventeen bands are from Bellingham or frequent the Bellingham area. All proceeds go to the Our Little Wishes Instrument Loaner and Enrichment Programs. These programs provide local homeless, low-income and foster children ages six to eighteen for music lessons and musical instrument rental to help increase hope and raise self-esteem.”
Also in October World Peace Poets hosted our 3 rd annual “Read-In”. November and December I read at a new hookah bar Cafe Bouzingo, and the first “Noisy Waters” reading at the Mt. Baker Encore Room, and returned to Auburn to feature at the Auburn Arts Association Poetry Open Mic.
Fall 2016 I’ll release my third poetry book “Fallen” and I hope to get more feature gigs on the books. I also have a few secret projects I’m working on–one includes a phone booth, another a hair artist, painter and fifty sets of crunches a day, and a NEW radio program for KVWV, Bellingham. My body, mind and spirit in top form—yep. That’s what I’m looking forward to in ’16.
Thanks for walking with me through this year. (dang that took a long time!) Have I mentioned how THANKFUL I am?
So, how was your 2014? What a mixed bad of nuts, right.
Robots went to Mars, the Rosetta spacecraft‘s Philae probe successfully lands on Comet 67P, the Ferguson, Mo. ruling (WTH?), the die-ins, Russia hosts the Olympics, Pussy Riot spoke out, Brazil puts on a dynamic show for the FIFA World Cup, the TV news world goes nuts over the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the US government continues to play games instead of governing, stunning display of the aurora borealis viewed by people as far south as Seattle, and some dy-no-mite sun activity causing cell/satellite outages. Fun. Fun. Fun. You were there, I don’t need to go into detail, but what a strange, wild, wonderful, and horrific year.
Here at the S.P. Laws office we had a… lets call it “productive” year. Many improvements are in place to help launch us off into an even more productive schedule for 2015. Here is the years recap:
2014 started off on the good foot with a breathtaking announcement in April. A letter came in the mail to officially notify me I was selected for 2013 Mayor’s Arts Award recipient “Poet”, along with many powerful folks in the Bellingham arts community, including my “Writer Idol” Laurel Leigh. Here we are celebrating at The Temple Bar afterwards with productive and energizing writers Susan Chase-Foster and Janet Oakley.
Also in April I was invited to speak with two lovely poets Jennifer Bullis (Bellingham) and Heather Curtis (Anacortes) for Heather’s book launch “Upon Waking” and for National Poetry Month. I could not be in better company. A fine set of poets.
In June my second poetry book, “Odd Little Things”, was released. Special thanks to my dear friend and editor Denise DuMaurier for her help. I edited my first book “Madrona Grove” by myself, in addition to formatting it. (I’ll never do that again) I learned my lesson. Editors are good people to know & hire. Don’t be afraid to use an editor. My two cents.
“Odd Little Things” is a familiar ride full of piercing moments and wishes. In this, her second book of poetry, Shannon bares all making you feel like best friends at a café sharing secrets. The cycles of life seem to spin like an unforgiving stellar system for this poet. However large or small, everything matters, especially the moments you only share with yourself. Shannon says about her new book, “If ‘Madrona Grove’ is my lover, then ‘Odd Little Things’ is my child.”
BTW: This fall a second edition of Madrona Grove was graciously edited by poet master, retired professor, James Bertolino. Available now at Village Books, click here: Madrona Grove VB
June marked the end of The New Americana Hour’s second season. It was a double punch to the intellect and heart. Such an honor to be apart of this program. I am a volunteer producer for a non-profit radio station in Bellingham, KMRE 102.3 LP, that broadcasts out of the SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention.
This season just touched my heart greatly. It was as if the seed co-host, Jon Winter and I planted last year decided to reward us with a bodacious bloom. Musician’s approached us hearing about the show from their colleagues, asking to be a guest on it. TNAH also connected with the Seattle based television program“Band in Seattle”. The success of last years line up and increase of listeners has contributed to two new sponsors for 2015.
September presented two magnificent opportunities to spread some SPL poetry: 2014 Tagore Festival in B.C. and the official book launch of “Odd Little Things”.
The Tagore Festival is always a treat. The music, films, history, traditional Bengal clothing and dance ignites the senses! Carla Shaffer and I were invited to read on the Friday performance.
For my book launch I invited two poet friends of mine to join me. Now, you know I can fill up an hour’s worth of podium time, however, I saw this as an opportunity to share the space with two of Bellingham’s finest: Carla Shafer and Erica Reed. Carla is the long time host of Chuckanut Sandstone Writers Theater, and Erica the host of Kitchen Sessions (2012-14), two inspiring open mics in town. This was the first time, that I am aware of it anyways, where three poetry group hosts gathered to read their poetry for an audience. Thank you Village Books for providing the space and promotion. I believe there was a cross-pollination, an intermingling if you will, of poet circles. Good times.
In September we also hosted the second annual “Poets for Peace, Read-in! Write-on!” event. This year held on a Friday night. The program is simple: opening ceremonies, soup/salad dinner, poets and musicians read and sing about what peace means to them. It ends when the last poet speaks. This is the only peace read-in in Bellingham. I hosted the event along with my Peace Sisters Carla Shafer and author and poet C.J. Prince. Watching members from Seattle to B.C. share their peace poems is like a healing, and good massage, calming down the anxiety of questions regarding humanities future. “World peace starts with me” – peace is to be shared freely.
The last event I was fortunate to be apart of was in November, a fundraiser for the Whatcom Juvenile Justice Creative Writing Project. Held at the glamorous Encore Room at the Mt. Baker Theater. The audience was generous and responsive to touching poetry by all artists. Kevin Murphy was the exclamation point at the end of the evening with his bongo poems that everyone can relate to. Man, I love that guy!
What a year. My writing is a great release, and a reward thanks to a responsive writing and book worm community here in Bellingham. Connecting with people, my neighbors, sharing intimate work like poetry, music, a smile and a handshake, is like a great reward, an enrichment to my little life. People are amazing.
This summer I am hoping to expand my readings outside of Bellingham. I’m hoping for an Anacortes reading, perhaps LaConner, South King County and Seattle. Just crossing my fingers that time and money will be available for those events. This December I moved into a tiny apartment. Like Virginia Wolf, I have a room of one’s own (and kitchen and a bath). Here is my launching pad for 2015. I wonder where it will take me?
“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” Virginia Wolf
Since 2010 I have posted this story around the holidays. It has become a Madrona Grove tradition. The ham story is a about generations and tradition.
My mother’s mid-western family has many traditions. One that is especially unique is making fresh Oyster Stew on New Years. My mother’s Minnesotan family originates from the Rhine River valley of Germany, apparently near a place where you can get good oysters. Mom says her grandma made it as a holiday soup, and her mother made it for new years. My parents would take us on the one and a half hour drive to Minterbrook Oyster Farm in Gig Harbor every year for the “freshest oysters in Western Washington”
Some other traditions in my family for Thanksgiving include a pause in prayer before dinner and a round-table mention of what we are thankful for for the year.
This year with the Ferguson, Missouri riots and equal rights demonstrations flaring up across the nation, I’m thinking of freedoms. How wonderful is freedom? The freedom of speech, the freedom to walk down the street or drive a car without harassment. The freedom to not wear a burqa or a head scarf and NOT be arrested. All the freedoms I have in my day, my freedom to write, to speak, to share my thoughts, feelings and poetry on this website. I’m thankful even for the freedoms I have yet to discover. I’m thankful for the supportive writing community here in Bellingham. I especially enjoy reciprocation—when sharing and respect come full circle and friendships are formed.
Whatever your traditions, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving, good food, good love and a warm soul.
Best wishes, -Shannon P. Laws
It’s Time for Ham!
OK, true story:
One holiday four generations of family are all gathered together in the youngest daughter’s new home for a rare time together. This is the youngest daughters first time hosting the family dinner, and she’s a little nervous.
Her mom is helping her with the ham. The daughter plops the large ham into its pan and asks the mom, “OK what do we do next?”
“Well,” answers the mom, “first thing we need to do is cut off the ends of the ham, just the sides about 2 inches worth.”
“Why?”, asks the daughter.
“I don’t know, but my mom always did it, and her ham’s turn out great every time.”
They call the young woman’s grandma in, “Grandma, why do you cut the ends of the ham before cooking?”
“Gosh, I don’t know why. Never thought of it. MY mother always cut the ends off, so that’s how I’ve always done it. How funny.”
The three ladies quickly walk out to the living room to find the young woman’s great-grandmother sitting and talking with family. “G.G. I have a question for you. Why do you cut the ends of the ham off?”
“Well, I don’t know why YOU cut the ends of the ham off, but I had to cut the ends off or it wouldn’t fit into my oven!”
Lesson: It’s good to know WHY you do what you do, so that you don’t waste any ham.