Saturday, August 30, 2014
Sunday, August 24, 2014
I'm happy we have finally arrived at the information about Charline's writing, which I find fascinating because she writes about vivid dreams she has had. The dreams are so detailed, they could even be glimpses of past lives, if you believe in reincarnation...We touched on the subject of dreams and past lives in the previous post, and now to continue:
(The entire prologue can be viewed here: http://www.thecurseofnefertiti.com/Prologue.html )
As far as research for The Curse of Nefertiti… Truthfully, I spent the majority of my time researching what I had written; after I wrote it. At times, the accuracy, or the reason for the why of a passage, (or a character), was exceptionally eerie.
Let me provide you with an example. Were I to choose an ancient Egyptian deity who I could identify with, I would choose Isis. (She does, of course, appear in this tale). I’ve also mentioned in previous interviews and/or discussions, that: “while writing The Curse of Nefertiti, I allowed the book to write itself.”
To the reader, as they make their literary journey, the various characters and deities will make sense; but to me, while I was writing it, they didn’t always. I never expected Sekhmet to make an appearance, and certainly not on page twenty-one. After she arrived in the story, I never expected her to play such a huge part; yet she did.
So, finally, two-thirds of the way through my writing, I went and researched Sekhmet to better understand why she was such an integral part of this tale. What I discovered was quite surprising…
According to Ancient Egyptian history, the father of Akhenaton, (King Amenhotep III), ‘especially revered Sekhmet.’ In fact, some of the historical inscriptions described him as: ‘beloved of Sekhmet who smites the Nubians.’ Additionally, I discovered that more than 730 life-sized statues of Sekhmet had been erected in King Amenhotep III’s mortuary temple.
After learning this, I understood why Sekhmet would have displayed such ferocious care and concern for Akhenaten, (and subsequently Nefertiti). Akhenaten was the son of one who was most favored by her. I also understood why Sekhmet would have been an important deity to Akhenaton; even with the monotheism of the Amarna period. Just because you state that there is one main God, doesn’t mean you lose all fondness and love for the other deity’s you were raised with; especially when those deities are devoted to you.
And to answer the last part of your question: how is my Prologue a direct translation of my dream… Well, the Prologue itself is the actual dream and not just a translation. The parts that weren’t kept in the Prologue were used throughout the remainder of the story, including that last “ending” line. And yet, the end of my dream didn’t quite wind up being the book’s end… It was the end of my dream, but it didn’t feel right for the book’s end. Several days later, midway through a shower, (since water is my muse), the final closing story came to me and then I knew the book was completed.
Well, let’s see…
The second dream I had written down, actually occurred the night after my Ancient Egyptian dream. This dream though was set in an older Ireland; an Ireland of around 1200BC. This was a rugged and treacherous land; one that did not allow the ignorant or foolhardy to live long. At this point in time, Ireland was home to the Celts, and they embraced their own deities: Dagda, Brigit, the Morrigan and countless others…
While this book will certainly feature the historical aspects of that age, the main storyline will focus on the in-fighting between the Gods. And also on some of the creatures they created; such as werewolves. However, you should know that the werewolves of Celtic lore were not evil fiends, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t embellish the mythology…
Another dream is set in Atlantis, the city of myth. Yet, one must wonder if it really is… After all, Pompeii was real, but then it was lost to fables only to be found again.
The Atlantis of my dream was an amazing city. Full of knowledge, and with no limits. Anything was possible because each of us intrinsically understood the workings of the universe around us. We had the mental ability to affect change; to bend the world to our will. Yet, even as our now-vast-knowledge allowed us a transcendence of sorts, our understanding of: right vs wrong, good vs bad, positive vs negative, or light vs dark, had not evolved much beyond something akin to today’s 21st century.
In the Atlantis of my dream, humanity had access to everything they could think to desire; but still there were those who could not, or would not, release those darker, base human desires. The Atlantean High Council felt they could overcome this aspect of the human psyche; but … pride doth always goeth before the fall.
In the end, Atlantis was lost. Not due to some catastrophe of nature, (we had already conquered and manipulated the world to suit our needs), but because we chose to remove that level of knowledge from the world. We did not wish to be responsible for the possible demise of future civilizations; therefore we destroyed Atlantis in her entirety.
Mankind will again attain that level of intelligence, but we realized that they would need to find it on their own. We hoped that with the many millennia necessary to reach those heights of intelligence; mankind’s darker parts would evolve for the better…
There is also a dream that begins in Romania, (in the mid to late 1800s), then moves to America before returning to Romania in the early 1900s.
A quick synopsis:
Queen Elisabeth (of Romania) had a daughter. A curious and independent child from birth, she left Romania to go visit the Americas. (To see what all the fuss was about).
The Queen’s daughter, (Maria), had a beautiful voice; and at night she sang in a saloon. One night, one of the patrons, (James), stayed after closing to ask if she would accompany him to dinner the following evening. She agreed, they courted and over time they fell in love.
Several years later, during the spring of 1912, Maria received an urgent communication that her mother was ill. At this point she was forced to explain to James who she really was and that she had to leave. Her time in the Americas was finished. Needless to say, he was devastated beyond belief.
Maria hurriedly packed and departed, and James was there to see her off. But, when the boat finally docked in the Port of Canstanta, Maria was nowhere to be found.
This novel will be written from the perspective of James, and the reader will not know who Maria is until that fateful day in 1912. And even though James watched her leave, he doesn’t believe she really left. This also seems to be validated by her lack of arrival in Romania. So for these reasons plus love, he wanders the streets every night, hoping to again hear her voice. And who knows if he ever will…
I will leave off with three of the five, (not including Pompeii), so that I can answer the final part of your question. How do I know the approximate dates?
My dream of Ancient Egypt was easy to identify as the dream included the famed bust of Nefertiti. (Although in the dream it was a different color). Pompeii was also easy because of the culture, garb and gee, the volcanic eruption… *chuckle*
However, when I have less historically altering information then I must become a history sleuth. This means that once I’ve written the specific dream out, I will take any and all pertinent information I’ve been provided and backtrack through time until something starts to fit.
Then I will take the additional information and verify that also fits. Everything must fit together, (kind of like the pieces of a puzzle); otherwise I know I’m not in the right time period. And then, the final piece of the puzzle is me. I can think I’ve found the right location, the right time period, or the right history, but if it feels “wrong” to me with regard to that “physical recognition” I have previously mentioned, then I know I need to keep looking.
That’s also why I started writing my Pompeii book prior to my Ireland book, even though the Ireland dream came first. I still can’t locate the correct recognition within myself. I can see the lands. I can see the high, jagged cliffs and the stark white rocks. I can see and feel parts of the Celtic history and mythology and yet I cannot pinpoint the location within Ireland. Due to the fact that so much of early Celtic history has been lost, or hasn’t made it outside of the country, I have this sense that I won’t find/recognize it until I actually stumble upon it in person. I guess I’m going to need to spend some time in Ireland. Oh, darn…
Well, A Life in the Age of Pompeii, provides a “biographical” story of a woman who was brought to Pompeii as a slave, yet was raised as the daughter of an influential town councilman. This is a fictional tale, but it is historically accurate to the occurrences of the age; whether culturally, politically and/or religiously. Setting aside my back injury, (which has significantly impeded my writing progress), this tale has been immensely difficult to write.
My dream for this book came about as a dream within a dream, within yet another dream, (mine). Consequently, I had to work exceptionally hard to convey that “dream within a dream” aspect in the Prologue.
The first half of A Life in the Age of Pompeii was a joy to write. The various experiences of this young child easily filled the beginning chapters. But then this child began to grow up, and my writing began to slow; for there is only one end to work toward. This is no happily-ever-after story… There is no future for this woman. No husband to love and bear children with. No grandchildren to fawn over in her old age.
This is the story of a life lost; a life of but one among the thousands. An ending suspended in time; without even the dignity of burial. A life, and a city, that were forgotten through the centuries; finally rediscovered and put on display for the world to gawk at in horrified fascination. Pompeii did not die in a fiery volcanic eruption; instead she, and her citizens, languished away under a smothering blanket of ash; twenty feet deep in some places.
The book’s blurb is written as if from the archaeologists who unearthed this woman’s subterranean tomb; while the story is written first-person, from her.
Here’s the link to the jacket blurb: http://charlineratcliff.com/jacket-blurb.html
To partially quote the back cover’s last line: “…this is her story. Will you listen?”
And here’s the link to read the Prologue: http://charlineratcliff.com/prologue.html
Trish, this interview was truly my pleasure, and I sincerely appreciated the honest interest of your questions. Thank you very much for your time in formulating them as well as for featuring me on your blog.
And! I’m almost done with the writing of A Life in the Age of Pompeii, and I look forward to having you read it. (I’ll even include a box of Kleenex as you might need them. I know I have).
(facebook author page)
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Do You Believe in Reincarnation? This Writer's Stories Reflect Past Lives. Charline Ratcliff, author of The Curse of Nefertiti has such an interesting life story I have to split the interview into three parts.
Part 1 addressed Charline's young life, her father's abuse, and her life criss-crossing the USA and literally living in the woods.
Part 5 continues the story...
Well, long story short, when I managed to leave home it was with the help of two older women who sold regularly at the same Ocala, Florida area Flea Market where my parents had decided they would sell at for a while.
And just to clarify, it was not like I sought either of those women out. They were just older, and more experienced at viewing life. The both of them, (separate from each other), recognized the signs of physical and sexual abuse that was consistently exhibited in the dynamic of my family.
Feeling nothing save for empathy and compassion, each of them approached me in as non-threatening a manner as they were able. Having been hidden away from society’s gaze as much as possible by my parents, I was completely stunned when the older of the two women, (the one who several weeks previously had suggested that I just think of her as family and call her “grandma”), pulled me aside one afternoon when my father was busy with customers.
She sat me down, away from the hustle and bustle of the market, touched my shoulder and said: “Honey, I need to ask you a question.” Now, I’ve always been an intuitive child, and at her words my heart felt like it dropped twenty feet. I’m pretty sure I heard my rib-cage rattle as my heart plummeted past… (Even now as I write this, I’m re-experiencing those same feelings).
If it were physically possible for a person to turn to stone, I’d have turned into a statue at what she asked next: “Has your dad ever sexually abused you?”
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to feel. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know how to answer her. Without thought, I wept and take note that I chose that word carefully. This wasn’t the crying that comes from normal sadness, nor was it the heartfelt sobbing of someone who has just lost their one true love, instead this was the quiet weeping that comes from feeling the heavy burden of shame. I daresay that only those, unfortunate enough to have experienced this same type of abuse, can fully understand or appreciate the sentiment that I am attempting to express.
She took this moment to wrap her arms around me, holding me as I cried; and she cried with me. Eventually I managed to ask her how she’d known. She told me it was obvious; that anytime any man started to talk to me, my father would appear out of nowhere and then send me away to do something out of sight. “That’s not normal father behavior,” she stated.
She then sent me down to the public restroom, so that I could wash my face and try and sort myself out before I had to return to my parent’s selling space. Before I left though, she told me that she was going to talk with her friend, (the other woman), and that the two of them would figure out some way to help me. Because of her words, I walked away with a much lighter step. I now had something different for which to hope. Up until this point, the only thing that gave me a sense of comfort and control was the calendar that I had previously made for myself that showed me, (daily), the number of days until I turned eighteen. Around that point I was down to 535 days…
She was as good as her word too. The very next weekend, she motioned me over to her booth. Her friend’s daughter, Tenowah, lived in North Jacksonville Beach. She couldn’t get away from work to drive down to get me on that current weekend; however she would be able to the following weekend.
You have no idea how excited I was. And I knew that I would be safe. And that my parents couldn’t find me this time. You see, I had run away twice before; when I was twelve. My first attempt happened on a Friday afternoon, when a class friend and I rode the school bus to her house. My father was there in a matter of hours. I got in major trouble for running away and … for painting my fingernails with a really pretty light pink colored nail polish.
I, of course, always learn from my mistakes. Consequently, when I ran away again a couple of months later, (while it was still planned for Friday after school), this time I went home with a friend whose parents always drove her to/from school. Huzzah! It worked!! I stayed the entire weekend at their house, but I was not entirely without a sense of dread. Just as animals are able to sense what is later recognized as the calm-before-the-storm, so too can I. When Monday arrived, she and I were dropped at school and there was my father… (This was also my last day in public school).
Anyway, the following weekend finally arrived, and wow, had the time dragged by! Around midday, I was covertly informed that Tenowah had arrived; that she was waiting for me in her car by the restrooms. I’d previously gotten my birth-certificate as well as my social security card out of my mother’s filing box, and with those both in my pocket, (and only the clothes on my back), I told my parents that I needed to go down to use the restroom. (This flea market was at a drive-in movie theater. Vendors were allowed to set up their tables in the back section of the drive-in, and the restrooms were attached to the concession building).
As luck would have it, my mother decided that I needed to take my five, and seven year-old brothers with me to the restroom. Thankfully there were only two stalls in the ladies room, so I sent a brother into each one and then sent them back up the hill to where our parents were; on the pretext that it was my turn to use the facilities. Instead, I watched them to ensure they arrived safely and then got into Tenowah’s vehicle. She, (and her roommate Sharon who made the drive with her), were happy to see/help me and we spent the slightly more than two hour drive getting acquainted with each other.
Due to my age, I couldn’t legally work without a parent’s signature on my job application. I did manage to get a work permit because, being sixteen, I was not required to have a physician sign off on my ability to work. And … since you are allowed to pick the application form up and return with it later, I was able to forge my father’s signature. There you have it; I’m now an admitted forger…
I searched the classifieds, plus the various shops in this new location for work, but no one wanted to hire a sixteen-year-old. Luckily, Tenowah was friends with a man named Jed; he was the manager for a Burger King fairly close to us. (This was good as I walked). Burger King was only part-time, and Tenowah recommended me as a house-cleaner to a couple of her friends. They definitely weren’t the most enjoyable jobs, but at least I was able to earn some money.
6. You wrote and published two children's books. What was the inspiration for those? Did you illustrate them yourself? You are obviously very artistic and right-brained. Do you want to tell us about your photography, art and interior design?
Well, truthfully it was my cat Oreo who inspired The Princess, The Toad & The Whale Series. She was/is just this huge and loveable, yet slightly not-quite-with it kitty. She started out as a short-hair kitten that, ten months later, grew some of the longest fur I’d ever seen on a feline. Consequently, not only was she quite the character, but she was constantly struggling to tame her wild and unkempt hair. Of course, she was never successful in this endeavor… *chuckle* Plus, she truly was a Princess, let me tell you. Although, I do need to state that she was never a Diva. Her personality has always been loving and sweet and if you have food she’s your new forever-friend. She loves wadded up newspaper or sheets of paper and if you throw them she’ll even go fetch them. The Princess in the storybooks truly embodies Oreo’s personality and crazy essence. (Toad and Whale were also inspired, and based on, the other two cats in the household).
As far as illustrating, while I could have eventually gotten to the illustrations myself, I opted to let someone else draw them. (Delegation from a Type A personality, now that’s some personal growth on my part). However, I did work hand-in-hand with my illustrator to ensure that the finished illustrations matched the vision in my head. And yet, I did give her creative license... (Another Type A personality shocker too, right)? This was also a good thing because she remembered that I needed to have those little touches: things like windows and/or artwork on walls, rugs, etc.
Thank you for your compliment re: very artistic/right-brained. In actuality, I am both left and right-brained, but the truth of the matter is that I much prefer to live in the right-side of my brain. Although, I oftentimes wind up becoming an interpreter-of-sorts between those who are extremely left-brained, and their extremely right-brained counterparts… It can be quite difficult for these two types to converse effectively, because their manner of thinking/seeing/relating to the world around them is so much different. Since I speak the “language” of both, I’m a great mediator.
I remember attending a business meeting with a very right-brain only, creative friend of mine. This particular meeting dealt with the technical side of her business and midway through it she became overwhelmed and began to cry. Not because anything untoward had been said or done, but because that was how she coped with what she couldn’t understand. Of course, the poor left-brain, engineer-minded businessman sat across from her; open-mouthed with shock, wearing a deer-in-the-headlights expression of absolute terror…
After everything had been sorted out and cross-explained, she apologized to him for crying. Which in turn prompted him to ask, “Do you always cry in business meetings?”
The truth of the matter is, if one person only speaks Latin and the other speaks only in mathematical equations, without a Rosetta Stone to bridge the languages, how do these two people communicate cogently?
Yes, well there’s a real can of worms… I have consistently found that the topic of dreams can be a controversial and challenging subject. So much can be taken from them, they can have so many meanings, their meanings can change with time, and no one can experience an exact dream or have the same understanding as anyone else.
Dreaming is much like reading a book. Your brain will process the experience based on all the factors of what makes you, well, you. (Life experiences, how you were raised, your personal beliefs, et cetera).
And, let’s face it, the conscious brain can only think about a very limited amount at a time, while the subconscious brain can handle much more. I believe a University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine study has estimated that the conscious brain can only process around 2,000 bits of information per second whereas the subconscious brain processes about 400 billion bits per second. Kind of makes me wonder how much information someone like Einstein could process through his conscious brain per second…
Anyway, with all that said:
I do believe that people can dream about things that will happen in the future; providing they are open to it.
I do believe that dreams can be a way for a “higher power” to communicate with us; if we are open to it.
I do believe that dreams allow the subconscious mind to process past, present and future experiences and then “dumb them down” so our conscious minds can, (hopefully), understand them. I think that one possible reason for recurring dreams, (and only in certain instances), is because the subconscious is trying to get the dreamer to realize and/or understand something that he/she still isn’t grasping.
I do believe that dreams affect our day-to-day lives in a myriad of ways that we may never fully be able to understand.
I do believe that some dreams are also memories of, or from, previous lives.
With regard to my vivid dreams, (the ones that I use as the Prologues for my books), they each feel as though I’m walking through the tired, worn and familiar halls of memory. In these dreams, I feel what happens around me. I hear the birds, smell the water, and feel sand crunch underneath my feet. I can smell the world around me. I can touch and taste; and I have memories within those memories.
In some of my dreams, I’ve watched the library at Alexandria burn; smelled the acrid smoke as it billowed forth. I’ve experienced being a simple scribe and detailing a horrific war between Greeks and Phoenicians. I’ve heard the screams of battle and of the dying.
When I looked for information on this particular dream, I was taken aback to discover how much of it had been reality. The Phoenicians were first known as the Canaanites; it was the Greeks who began calling them Phoenicians, (meaning purple-red), for the dye extracted from the shell-fish.
Later on, the Phoenicians became Carthage/Carthaginians and due to certain Greek factions, and then later the Romans, Carthage and her people were completely eradicated. As in the genocide of an entire race/culture…
Are they past lives? I don’t know. Maybe… My physical body, (taking my brain/logic out of the equation), feels the memories of them; it feels like something akin to having “muscle memory.” Example: you may forget how to ride a bike, but if you get on the bike, your body will remember it for you.
Or, maybe they are simply genetic memories stored within my DNA. Some scientists believe that prehistoric man used to pass down genetic memories…
Or, maybe I just have a great imagination. *chuckle*
Yet, when I attempt to view these dreams as only imagination, my logical side objects on the basis that I should know some/any/most of a dream’s information prior to the experience. Just for the record, wars, (ancient or otherwise), were definitely not one of those subjects that I ever strove to read up on…
Saturday, August 2, 2014
Do You Believe in Reincarnation? This Writer's Stories Reflect Past Lives. Charline Ratcliff, author of The Curse of Nefertiti has such an interesting life story I have to split the interview into three parts.
"You have such a unique and fascinating story to tell, Charline. I'm thrilled to have you on my blog."
"Thank you, Trish. I truly appreciate your interest in my life story, and thank you for taking the time to interview me."
1. Charline, you mention in your bio on your website that your parents packed up everything and started living a nomadic life, hiding out in the woods and moving from state to state, after they learned that they were being investigated for child abuse. Obviously there was some guilt involved or they would have stayed and disputed the charges. It seems to me that you are determined not to portray yourself as a victim, which is commendable. Do you want to tell us any more about that?
Yes, that is true. What prompted this investigation is that I had gone to school with a fairly large cut on the top/back of my head courtesy of my father striking me with a clipboard. (The metal clip part of the clipboard is what sliced into my scalp). Monday, (the first school day since the weekend clipboard incident), arrived and as always, before I could leave the house, I had to be “checked” to ensure that I wasn’t wearing clothes that allowed any signs of physical abuse to show. (There are pictures of me in a kiddie pool fully clothed in a shirt and pants. Three guesses as to why and the first two don’t count). As my hair was somewhat long, and I wasn’t bending my head down to where my hair could fall away from the gash, I was deemed presentable and allowed to go.
Unfortunately, (for my parents), due to the size of the cut on my head, as well as its location, when I was sitting at my school desk, looking down while reading from a text book; my teacher walked by and actually noticed this gash. When the dismissal bell rang the teacher asked me to stay after class as she wanted to talk to me. This of course made me very nervous. I truly was a very well-behaved child; and even though I’d had a mind of my own from the age of two, I always knew that my best strategy for avoiding any parental “discipline” was to “not make waves.”
Standing at the teacher’s desk as I waited for the other students to leave sent me into a panic. I wasn’t sure what I might have done, but I knew whatever it was, I was going to “get it” later. After the classroom had cleared my teacher shut the door, (for privacy purposes I later realized). And I’ll tell you what, it’s a good thing I’ve never been a fainter; if I was, I’d have been out cold right then.
It was at this point though that she completely surprised me by asking about the cut on my head. I was so taken aback, and she seemed so genuinely concerned that I actually started crying. She asked me what had happened, and … (while my father labeled me as a “pathological liar” later on when his sexual abuse of me came to light), I was an honest child, so I told her.
She was extremely unhappy to hear this and she wanted me to go with her to the Principal’s office. That’s when I realized the gravity of my situation. To be honest, I didn’t want to go with her. I wanted to just leave it alone. I still had to go home, and I knew if my parents found out about this I was going to be sorry. (Over the years, I’ve had death threats from several men, but none of them struck the fear of God into me quite like those threats from my father).
Anyway, to sum up, I did go to the Principal’s office. My teacher had no choice in the matter. Once she was aware, and having seen the proof, she was legally bound to report it. Of course, at that time, child abuse didn’t carry the same sense of urgency that it does today and nothing happened to protect me from a life of future abuse. (Partially because of all the legal/bureaucratic red tape, and partially because my father was a fantastic liar and managed to slow and/or stop everything long enough for us to leave the area).
Is there guilt on their part? With regard to my father, I would say yes, but that didn’t come until much, much later in his life. Astonishingly enough, he provided a heart-felt apology to me after two+ decades of treating me like a pariah who was no better than the dirt beneath his shoes because I ran away from home shortly after my sixteenth birthday. During his apology, while he could not bring himself to verbally mention each of his wrongdoings; what he did say to me that day was enough, and I did forgive him. The ironic thing is that he died about two weeks later, (at the age of 58); and there is a part of me that believes he waited to go until after my visit and his apology.
As far as my mother, I don’t believe there is guilt on her part anymore. Not because she didn’t initially have it, (my grams told me years later that my mother had told her that she had regret for things she had done). Unfortunately, over the years my mother’s remembrances of the reality of the past have become twisted to suit what she desires to have as her memories.
At one point, about ten years ago, I did attempt to talk with her about my childhood. What I got back from her, (and I quote) was: “That’s alright Charline. I forgive you.”
Occasionally over the years since, I’ve attempted to reach out to her, especially during the first couple years after my father died, but sadly it was never a positive-to-me experience; not to mention that I struggle having any sort of “real” relationship with someone whose reality is not true to the world they live(d) in, both past and present. And of course, I don’t believe that anyone should be forced to keep a toxic-to-them person in their life on the basis of “well they’re family.”
Whew… that turned out to be a rather long response to your “Do you want to tell us any more about that?” question!
2. When you lived the gypsy life, how did your parents earn money for food and the other necessities? Was there ever enough of the things you needed?
Well, there were several different ways... When my parents first started this “new” lifestyle, they most likely had some type of nest egg since my father had been working as a copy repairman for Xerox in the Seattle, Washington area.
Initially, we lived in tents and stayed in the State Parks. However, even though campsites are inexpensive, (compared to hotels/motels), when you’re living in them full time, the fees begin to add up. And trust me, if you don’t pay the daily camp fee by a certain time, the Ranger will definitely be at your tent flap to collect the money…
Once several months had passed, and we had “moved” several times, my parents discovered that they could legally camp in any National Forest, (countrywide), for free, for as long as they desired. So, they “downsized” expenses first, which helped their monetary outflow dramatically. However, that decision meant that all the conveniences of “modern” living, things that most people use without thought, were no longer available to us.
At this point in time, heat became layered clothing, sleeping inside a sleeping bag in those same layered clothes, and a campfire. Electricity, and running water were things of the past. If I wanted light after the sun had set, my options were a) the campfire or b) a flashlight. (I did eventually manage to get myself a headlamp for nighttime reading in my tent because my arm got tired of holding a heavy MagLite flashlight for hours).
Flush toilets also went the way of the Dodo; instead we had a shovel and the use of the great outdoors, complete with bushes of your choice to use as your bathroom “walls.” By now you’re probably curious about showers too…
Well, let’s see. During the warmer months, one could swim, but generally a “shower” entailed a wet wash cloth. Washing my hair meant pouring cold water from a plastic gallon milk jug onto/over my head/hair; providing, of course, that we had water available for non-food purposes. (At least the State Parks had flush toilets and shower facilities for the campers).
Every few weeks my father would drive us into whatever town we were closest to so that my mother could go food shopping. While my father sat in the car, and my mother went through the store, I would go into the ladies room and wash my hair in the sink. Women definitely looked at me strangely, but at least I’d feel clean and human for the next two days…
Yet, even with the cutbacks on everything, my parents came to the realization that they still didn’t have the ability to maintain this lifestyle. Consequently, at many of the towns we stopped at, my mother would apply for food stamps. You might wonder how she/we qualified when we didn’t have an address… Well, actually, we did: my mother’s name, General Delivery, Whatever City We Were In, Whatever State, and the appropriate zip code to that specific post office.
The food stamps did help, but they wouldn’t cover non-food items such as gas, batteries, or toilet paper so it was decided that my mother would go to work at a fast food restaurant or a hotel/motel needing a maid for a few weeks until they had enough money to last for a couple months. (Generally she would work 4-6 weeks somewhere and then we’d stay in the area until she could collect her final check, and then we’d leave and repeat the entire process elsewhere).
We were traveling through Phoenix, when my parents started noticing the “prolific-ness” of Flea Markets, Swap Meets and … yard sales, garage sales, estate sales, etc.
At this point I should probably preface that prior to this “discovery” we had already been making weekly trips to various city and/or county dumps as we traveled. We would wade through the sometimes knee-deep trash, (I am not kidding), looking for things that could be re-used and/or repurposed. My father was nothing, if not an opinionated man, and he always got on his soapbox about how wasteful Americans are. There is of course truth to that statement, but he took it to a whole new level. Aside from the yucky smells and disgusting bugs and sights at the dumps, there were viable items found. (Although, usually of a more technical nature).
Afterward, I could often be found with a soldering gun, cannibalizing all the electronic items for their working parts. My father and I had jars full of resistors, transistors, capacitors and many other small electronic parts. Then either he and me together, or me by myself, would make a new item, (radio, clock, etc. depending if we had a radio shell and an empty circuit board) from these parts or we would refurbish broken electronic items.
I don’t tinker with electronics anymore, but at that time I found it to be enjoyable. I’ve always liked to make, repair, or recreate things and electronic items were no different. (Although, sometimes I did wind up having a bad resistor or something else, or I used too much current for the item and wound up blowing up the circuit board). And even though I don’t work with them nowadays, somehow I think I’ll always have a soft spot for the smell of hot solder…
Anyway, to return to the “discovery,” my parents figured they would try their hand at buying items at yard/garage sales and them reselling those same items at Swap Meet and Flea Market venues. And finally, anything purchased at those yard/garage sales that was new, still in box with a price tag, was returned to the store of its purchase as an “unwanted gift.”
And that was what got my parents by financially, at least for the remainder of the time I was with them.
3. Your love of books is easy to understand. There probably wasn't much else to do since you weren't going to school or participating in any other outside activities. How else did you occupy yourself?
Well, believe it or not, living in a tent in the middle of nowhere does require a lot of work if you want to maintain any semblance of “civilization.” Because of this, I had numerous tasks, the first and foremost being the live-in babysitter/nanny for my two, very-much-younger-than-me, brothers.
I was always required to keep all the exterior household areas clean. So, any time after meals, I was expected to clean up/wash up. Any chairs, or anything else we used, I was expected to put away. I was expected to gather the firewood; kindling, as well as larger branches and logs. I was expected to carry the bow saw with me so that if I came across any wood too large and/or heavy for me to carry back, I could cut it there and make multiple trips. I even became quite good at hand-washing clothes, although I have to tell you, trying to hand-wring blue jeans is tough. There’s no give or stretch to the fabric, and all you get for your trouble are blisters and pants that still drip water…
At some point along the way, my father became tired of having to walk out into secluded areas to go to the bathroom. At the next camping/stopping point he made sure he located a place that also had a small secluded, yet treed/shrubbed area next to it. These areas were to become the “bathrooms.” In addition to my many other chores, I was now expected to take our 5’ shovel and dig multiple 6’ feet holes. This way one could go to the bathroom without trekking all over the countryside and then just cover the waste over with the dirt I had dug out of, and left next to, each hole.
There were many other chores; too many to list here though. My parents made sure they made good use of my free labor. Cinderella and I had lots in common… *chuckle*
During the days, after I was done with whatever they had assigned me, there would come times when they could not come up with anything else for me to do. At which point they would allow me to go for a walk. My Walkman radio/cassette player was my only lifeline to the “real” world, (other than when we went into town for groceries and would also stop at the library for books). Believe you me; I never was without spare batteries!
Music, reading, and seeing beauty in the nature around me was what got me through those very lonely years. That and the thirteen pen pals I had from different countries around the world…
I rarely read during the day; mainly I saved that for nighttime. Just because the sun might set at 5:30pm didn’t mean I was ready for sleep at 6:30pm! Plus, if I was told my parents didn’t have anything for me to do, but then I stayed around where they could see me, they would find something for me to do. Especially my father who, as I got older, became even more disparaging about my reading choices, my looks, my clothing choices, my desired future career choices, my perceived crappy attitude, my laziness and even my extremely low intelligence level. (Just to share a few).
As I mentioned much earlier, I learned to “not make waves” therefore if I wasn’t around for him to see/look at, then theoretically I couldn’t upset him. That effort on my part didn’t always work out for me, but hey, no one can say that I didn’t try!
4. I find it extremely commendable that after you stopped attending school at age twelve, you educated yourself. The fact that you are such a good writer is proof that your education was not lacking as far as language and creative writing go. Are you any good at math and sciences? How did you actually teach yourself?
Thank you, Trish. I hesitate to say this, but I’ve always loved all educational subjects, although I know there are many who don’t. (And that’s quite alright too)! From as early as I can remember, I have always found the world around me to be a very interesting and fascinating place. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to learn everything that I’d like to, but I’m still working on it; even today!
With regard to my younger education; were you to ask my parents, (as every single person who came across us invariably did), they would answer without hesitation or batting an eye, that they “homeschooled,” us. That boldfaced lie grates on my nerves every time I hear it…
It is true that my mother did “homeschool” my brothers, (and I use that word loosely, based on what I know to be their educational understanding of standard school subjects once they attained “adulthood” by turning eighteen). However, they didn’t even bother with me. My scholastic needs were completely ignored by both of my parents and my father even went so far as to state that “an education would be wasted on you.” (i.e. me)
So, when we went to the various libraries, I always checked out a massive amount of books. (Twenty-five to thirty every two/three weeks...) Some of them were fiction; intended for my age, some of them were learning, some of them were fairy tales, biographies, or locations/cultures that I was interested in, etc.
Later on in life, when I heard Einstein’s comment re: fairy tales and children, I definitely laughed. “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” ― Albert Einstein
As to how I taught myself, both then and through the years … I learn in various manners. Reading, hearing, watching, doing, and let’s not forget about deductive reasoning, common sense or the always fun, so-long-as-you-don’t-hurt-yourself, trial and error.
Stay tuned to read the fascinating continuation of this interview, and about how Charline dreamed of past lives and wrote about them.
Stay tuned to read the fascinating continuation of this interview, and about how Charline dreamed of past lives and wrote about them.