Behavior Modeled

LPTrendsCreators: Naima Mora Creates Her Own Life.

by Kathryn Mattingly

September 10, 2012

Naima Mora, former America’s Next Top Model winner (Season 4) and co-founder of the band Galaxy of Tar has a new eBook out courtesy of Possibility Publishing & Entertainment; a division of The Possibility Place, where all things inspiring (if not down right spiritual) toward positively achieving ones goals can be found.

Naima Mora courtesy of Naima Mora Online.

Model Behavior (if you ask Naima Mora) is all about mastering some difficult human concepts such as self-discipline, focus, accountability, and a willingness to try-try again until getting it right. It is having a clean healthy mind and body that equally exudes exemplarily character – such as being honest (with ourselves and others), having integrity, compassion and empathy for those we cross paths with, and an iron clad work ethic. Simply put, the book is profoundly simple yet simply profound.

 

America’s Next Top Model Background

Why did Naima decide to audition for America’s Next Top Model Cycle 4? (You Tube video) A scout had visited her where she worked at the time and encouraged her to pursue it. Naima was originally thought to be a long shot for the title but ended up being a strong contender – start to finish – including her amazing feat of being an undefeated Cover Girl of the Week for the entire season!

Judges were swayed by her final performance on the catwalk. Tyra Banks noted that Kahlen was “the girl who did excellent during the semester and kind of failed the final exam,” while Naima was “the girl who did fair during the semester but killed her final exam!” It has been written that Cycle 4 of America’s Next Top Model gave us some of the most memorable contestants and moments in the show’s history.  The season remains, to this day, a fan favorite.

Roots Are Important

Mora comes from a family of inspirational artists and achievers. Her mother is the talented jazz vocalist and entrepreneur Theresa Mora and her dad is Mexican jazz percussionist Francisco Mora Catlett. Naima’s paternal grandparents are painter Francisco Mora and sculptress, painter and printmaker Elizabeth Catlett. (She is the inspiration for her grandmother’s 2001 black marble bust entitled Naima.) Miss Mora boasts of 5 bodacious sisters, including a twin, photographer Nia Mora. Nia did a lot of the very real, edgy and straightforward photography in Model Behavior – mirroring the theme of the prose perfectly.

Naima in New York City standing on a park converted from an old train trestle.

I met Naima at the design college where I recently worked. She emceed our first fashion show shortly after winning America’s Next Top Model Cycle 4. A vision in red, this young woman poised well beyond her years was so obviously an old soul haunting a young, well structured body. Not the same image that appeared in my office – makeup free, hair down, and wearing unassuming jeans with a simply T. I recognized her by the warm smile that lit up her whole face, whether in front of an audience at the Crest Theater or one-on-one in a confined office.

She asked me if I would look at a book she was writing and possibly edit her work. I had no idea what the melding of an old soul and youthful smile could produce in the way of literary excellence but I somehow knew it would be worth reading. I was right. The eloquently stated prose is dead on for mind changing mantra. Add to that some very chick and sassy photos that illustrate the thought process beautifully and you literally have a very literary experience.

Recently I asked Naima some questions about her background, family, goals and dreams. Her answers tell us why the book is worth reading, and what’s at the core of this confident, poised woman accomplishing all that she sets out to do, and then some.

What do you love and appreciate most about your family?

My family is fun, loving, supportive, crazy, dysfunctional, stressful and bizarre. In a word, normal… just like everyone else’s. Every one’s family has these traits, in one way or another! But there’s also something distinct that separates one family from the next.

I come from a family of artists, people who I believe see the world in a poetic light. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home where that sense of perception was nurtured and encouraged. My mom and dad are both musicians. I have fond memories of my mother singing to me all the time. To this day my mom breaks out in song and dance while doing the most mundane things, like grocery shopping. I LOVE IT THOUGH!

My dad is a drummer and composer. One of his favorite things to do when I was younger was to wake us up in the morning with some kind of world music blaring in house at 8am. When I was a teenager and wanted nothing more than to sleep, it almost drove me crazy! But I would never have traded it for the world! I love that my father constantly strove to expose me to other cultures and people of the world through music and that my mom makes a living musical of life!

My grandfather was a painter. He and my grandmother met while working together at the “Taller de Grafrica Popular” in Mexico City. This was an artist workshop that hosted them and their contemporaries including the likes of Diego Rivera, his wife Frida Kahlo and David Siqueiros. They were part of a movement of people that wanted to educate others through art and what were most popular – public murals.

My grandmother, who recently passed, was still working at the age of 96 as a print maker, lithographer and sculptor. They have both been granted numerous honorary doctorates from prestigious universities around the country for their artwork and constant striving to educate people through it. I guess I adopted a lot of inspiration in my life from the way they have led theirs. My grandparents have been one of my best examples of love, marriage, family and artistry.

I only have sisters, no brothers. There are six of us in total and we all turned out to be quite artistic ourselves. My oldest sister Crystal bakes and is a teacher. That is an art all its own! I really admire how she has transformed her love of working with children and people into something tangible. My sister Ife is a singer and songwriter. Besides mom and dad, she has been one of my biggest inspirations in following my passions of creating music.

My twin sister Nia is a photographer. She recently traveled the South Pacific by sailboat, creating a documentary of Polynesian culture and landscape. In her travels she must face the storms and waves of the ocean in order to reach some of the most beautiful islands on the planet. Her journey reminds me everyday that at the end of the storm calm and paradise are awaiting! Liethis is one of my younger sisters. She is a wonderful dancer. The youngest is Mahalia, who is only ten years old, but finding her passion in studying Martial Arts.

To say the least, we all work very hard and I am extremely proud of the family I come from, one that I am fortunate enough to have. We all work on our own individual successes and hope that those successes inspire each other. The foundation of our lives is the large amount of support and love that we share. This I think is the most important trait of my family and the thing I cherish the most.

Somehow I think having a meal with your family would be an amazing experience filled with love, laughter and lots of lively conversation! What would you like to share about your past career goals, and what are you doing presently with modeling?

I’ve been working on my career for a long time, before I even knew it. It is my strong belief that in order to be happy, we have to do what makes us happy! When I was young I loved dancing and pursued it all the way to New York City where I danced with the Dance Theatre of Harlem ballet company. The company having gone through some changes, I decided to move on and pursue another dream- modeling. Everything in life happens for a reason and I believe that it was my training in classical ballet that gave me the discipline, grace, movement and poise to be a great model.

Naima Mora, photo by Jewel Estephanos.

I have modeled for such magazines as Elle, Latina, MetroPop, Inked, Teen People, Ambassador, Courduroy, Fuego, Radaar, and Jewel. I shot the covers of reputable fashion magazines including Vicious, Cover, Modern Salon, H Mag, Mami and B.L.A.C.. Besides a CoverGirl campaign, I also shot a campaign for Sheer Cover Mineral Make Up, and Samsung. I walked in lots of shows for New York fashion week over the past years including Carlos Miele, Gharani Strok, Richie Rich and Project Runway.

Within my career I have received recognizable awards for exceptional achievement, outstanding leadership, and dedication to improving the quality of life including the ‘’Spirit of Detroit Award’ presented by the City Council of Detroit, Michigan; ‘California Legislature Assembly Certificate of Recognition’ presented by the California Legislative Black Caucus; and the prestigious ‘Key of the City to Cincinnati’ Ohio presented by Mayor Charlie Luken.

I often have the privilege of serving as a guest speaker and host for schools and universities. Some of these included the Ramapo College Enerve Couture Fashion Show, International Academy of Design and Technology; Imagine Student Fashion Show, State Fair Student Presentation, Detroit Public Schools / Detroit Public Library HYPE (Helping Young People Excel) launch, the Sacramento City Unified School District African American Student Leadership Conference and the University Of South Carolina’s student produced “Fashion For A Cause” fashion show.

Modeling has been wonderful and I have been granted so many opportunities to really connect with people through my career in fashion. I do have another passion however that has actually been the forefront of my life for the last several years, music. With my musical partner and very good friend Elias Diaz V., I have been able to pursue a dream of mine to become a vocalist. I attended City College of New York and majored in creative writing. Writing lyrics and vocals for the music that Elias creates has definitely allowed me an outlet for my creative writing and provided a platform for me to express my own artistry and creativity.

Elias and I began working together in a project called Chewing Pics, with whom we toured and produced two EP albums entitled “Tarantula” and “Trilogy”. When the band broke up, Elias and I both decided to continue working together and formed a new group, Galaxy of Tar. With Galaxy Of Tar we release our debut EP “PNEUMA”. We are currently working on a follow up album and it will be released this year, 2012.

How exciting! I know how important music is to you and your band Galaxy of Tar. Who came up with this unusual name?

The name Galaxy of Tar was inspired by a play. Elias Diaz V., who I started the band with, actually came up with the name. In the play there are two protagonists that are trying desperately to reach the land of Tar – a place where everything is beautiful and all their problems in life will be solved. However, en route to Tar the pair destroys themselves because of their own dark issues, which causes them to tragically sabotage their own happiness and forfeit their chances of reaching Tar.

Almost as if the music then is a metaphor for the struggles and angst associated with the pursuit of the dream journey. What type of music is it?

Galaxy Of Tar is a rock band. I’ve always loved aggressive music and the emotional depth it causes within your heart and soul. Our music reflects that emotional depth and is alive with a pulse and energy that is very specific to what Elias and I write together. It has this dark dissonance and odd chord progressions that are brought together with the harmonies and melodies I write for the vocals. I love the music we create. We often mix typical Jazz chords with ‘electronic effect’ driven vocals on top of the jazz chords to create our sound.

I don’t know a lot about jazz chords and ‘electronic effect’ driven vocals, but what I do know, from having listened to some of your recordings, is that the sincerity of your music strikes a chord in me, and probably in most of us. I define it as raw, positive energy. When did you first realize you wanted to sing in a band?

Oh I have always wanted to be in a band! Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to sing in one – just like my mom. It always seemed like it would be a really great and fun experience, which has proven to be true. But I always felt this dream was too far off and too difficult to accomplish. Elias and I had been really good friends for years when one day he took notice of my voice. He asked me if I wanted to try writing lyrics and vocal melodies for some of his music. We tried it out (combining our creative efforts) and I enjoyed everything about it, but most of all I love the challenge.

Elias and I want to write music that we really like listening to and that is challenging for us to play and perform. If you stay in your safety zone, it’s hard to grow. A lot of times Elias presents me with a very strange musical outline for a song. It forces me to have to think out of the box to actually be able to write lyrics and melodies for it. But when it syncs, it’s amazing!

So I have been taking it step-by-step ever since – and finally surmounted what had seemed to be an impossible little dream. I take my craft very seriously and put 150% of myself into it.

150% is a key element to your high success rate and also a major message in your upcoming book. What’s the inspiration for the music Galaxy of Tar chooses to write and/or perform?

Elias writes most of the music and his main instrument is the Drum Set. Elias is a very talented musician and I have been super fortunate to be able to work with him. He plays guitar and bass as well. All of these instruments stimulate his creative thought process, which allows him to write and record music. I sing of course and write the lyrics, and vocal melodies. We listen to EVERYTHING! And we take a little from each to put into our music. We learn a lot and grow from listening to and being inspired by music from all over the world. I always want to write what I will enjoy listening to over and over again.

So I listen to music that captivates me, whether it be classical, rock, Salsa or Taiko Drumming. I determine why it so captivating and that inspires me to explore all the parts of my creativity. Normally when we start working on an album, I work in themes. For our first record, I wrote a lot of love stories talking about different types of love. They spoke of destructive love, and godly love. One was of a man who fell in love with the machines he invented and so on. From there I turned them into song lyrics.

What have you recorded so far besides “PNEUMA” and where can we purchase your music?

We recorded and released “PNEUMA” in 2010 and it is available at http://galaxyoftar.bandcamp.com. In 2011 we recorded and released a three song EP of some cover that we wanted to do. We recorded songs that we really liked and were inspired by. “The Covers EP” is also available at our band campsite. We are releasing our second album later this year (2012). We really want to establish our music on the west coast and tour a lot! We also are looking towards working with local LA based artists in order to create some stunning visuals and stories around our music. The west coast has a thriving visual arts scene and I am very excited about incorporating that into our music.

I’d say you’re definitely off and running with another worthy goal. One thing you make clear in Model behavior is the importance of pursuing our dreams.

I love dreams and what they give to humanity- what they have given to me! Dreams give us a reason to live and wake up in the morning. Pursuing our dreams with integrity, courage and love provides us the opportunities to learn our true potential and to grow as people. Follow your dreams with everything you’ve got and never give up on them! I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

What are your closing thoughts on best practices for achieving success in life?

I think everyday life grants us the opportunity to determine who we are as people. Our true successes are measured in the decisions we make that create happiness for ourselves and for the world around us. It’s a struggle though. Life has a beautiful balance of positive and negative forces. I make it my goal to recognize these and use them to help me grow. I try to surround myself with things and people that are positive and supportive. It really encourages me.

When I am in a bad position or encounter negativity, I determine that I will change the situation as much as I can by adding positivity, understanding and forgiveness. Empathy can play a HUGE role in getting past disputes or even negative ideals we may hold onto. A smile goes a LONG way and it’s a simple start. That’s my life philosophy, to truly add value and positivity to every circumstance I encounter!

Naima Mora. Photo by Jewel Estephanos.

We concur. As “Model Behavior” shows us, life is full of endless possibilities for achieving success as long as we stay positive, and positively pursue those dreams!

To buy Naima’s book download it on iTunes today.

Her audio and print editions will be out soon!

Visit her blog (Naima Mora Online) and subscribe to her free weekly column where she share expert guest advice and where you can share your story with her to be published in an upcoming works as part of her Model Life Series.

 

 

 

 

By The Light of The Moon

LPTrends Short Fiction: By The Light of The Moon.

by Kathryn Mattingly

I remember lookin’ at Tom sittin’ there lickin’ his paws contentedly and thought about when the monstrous black cat first graced me with his presence. He wasn’t really my pet. Tom wasn’t anybody’s pet. He simply became a fixture in the corners of your life as it suited him, before moving on. I knew this about Tom because one day he just showed up. I opened the squeaky screen door on a muggy July morning to retrieve a fat Sunday paper with the colored comics stickin’ out in a tempting anticipatory manner, and there he was, sprawled across my porch swing meowing crankily.

I asked him who he thought he was, layin’ there on my porch swing like that, but he only pushed his nose up into the thickly humid Illinois air and squinted his big yellow eyes at me. Tom was purring in a most flirtatious manner and was quite receptive to my sensual stroking of his sleek black fur. As if knowing I was a young widow without a soul to care for, he took full advantage of my pampering services.


I didn’t have to say here kitty twice when laying a dish of cream at his feet. After he’d licked the blue china bowl clean, he claimed the porch as his own for the morning. I felt obliged to give him left over catfish from Friday night dinner at noontime, with some more of the cream.

That was the last of it and there was none for my evening coffee, so I mozzied on over to the market later that afternoon where I picked up a few cans of cat food too, just in case Mr. Tom was still around when I returned.

He was. I all but charged him rent on the front porch after that. My flowery pillows on the white painted slats of the porch swing became covered in short black fur. Tom hollowed out a nest in the foliage by the railing, where sometimes he curled up in a ball and hid from the bothersome busyness of the day. Only in the dead of winter did he come inside to claim my rag rug in front of the toasty fire for long cozy naps. Weather permitting, when shadows of night fell to the ground like heavy dew, Tom was gone. Not to be seen again until well past dawn. As long as crickets were chirping in the thick grass out back, or a frog was heard ribbitting down by the river over yonder toward Lilac Lane, he was nowhere near.

One day a woman from Scarlet Drive came by selling raffle tickets door to door for her church. “Where’d you get that cat?” she’d asked.

“I didn’t get him. He got me. Just showed up one day and decided to stay for awhile,” I replied.

“I had me a Tom like that one.” She nodded toward the swing where Tom was perched like a king on the flowered pillows watching her. He did have a knowing look in his glowing gold eyes, and was switching and twitching his tail, which was not at all his usual bored demeanor for my guests.

“He went and run off on me one night after a full blown harvest moon so big and yellow you could sort your socks by it. Truth be known he ran off on me every night, but this time he didn’t come back,” she added, staring at him all the while.

“Tom’s been here going on a year now. When’d you lose your cat?” I asked, hoping the time didn’t match at all.

“Oh, it’s been about that long,” she offered up. “How’d you know his name was Tom?”

“Well, I didn’t. But he looks like any typical ole’ tomcat to me, so it fit.”

“Ain’t nothin typical about that cat,” she scolded. “Look at him, lying there like he owns the place. That’s one pristine pampered animal for an alley runner. Don’t look like he’s ever met his match in a feline scrape.”

“Yep, he’s a big healthy one for sure,” I agreed. “Did you get your Tom as a kitten?” I asked, wondering if my Tommy had ever been a kitten, he seemed so ageless.

“Nope. My Tom showed up looking for a free meal all growed and sassy, and took over my tiny fenced yard as if he ruled it, sleeping in the petunia beds whenever he wished.”

I sighed with relief when she left, and hadn’t bought a raffle ticket, hoping she wouldn’t come back. I’d grown rather fond of Tom and didn’t want to lose him to Scarlet Drive, whether he’d wandered over here from there or not. I decided that my Tommy most likely had a whole slew of homes he’d borrowed until boredom or more pressing feline matters summoned him.

I realized one day he would no longer grace my porch either, lickin’ cream off his chin with a long scratchy pink tongue, or batting flies after a good days napping, just prior to his running off to romp down by the river, slinking between thick reeds along the bank, catchin’ any number of interesting critters for amusement.

I heard once about cats dancin’ by the light of the moon. My Auntie Jane told me the story when I was just a child. She said as a little girl she followed her calico kitty one day down to the river. The harvest moon was full and bright, and she knew those riverbanks like the back of her hand, so she wasn’t scared at all. When she got to the clearing around the furthest bend it nearly took her breath away, all the cats there meowing long and low to the moon, rolling around in the grass like they was playin’.

And then my Auntie Jane says she must have fallen asleep, ‘cause she remembers hearing fiddle music all of a sudden. Coming from nowhere really, but so loud and sweet it made your soul ache. And before she knew it those silly cats were twisting and turning into lords and ladies, looking so fine in their silky gowns and satiny tuxes, tall and slender, every one of them pretty as a picture. They were elegant and all in tune, partnered up and swirling about.

Auntie Jane says she must have been dreamin’ there in the dewy grass, exhausted from chasing down her calico pet, ‘cause several of those handsome people were young adults she knew to be deader than doornails. One was Carly Canton, who had drowned that summer at sweet sixteen. Carly’d been a bit of a wild one, with long freckled legs and wavy red hair. As red as Calico’s brightest patches of fur, Auntie Jane had observed, which might have contributed to the dreamin’ and all, she admitted.

Poor Carly was caught by an undertow and everyone believed it was shameful what with her having been drinkin’ that cold frothy beer at her tender age. No excuse just ‘cause it were hotter than blazes, all the adults had said. Never, never drink and swim!

Auntie Jane especially remembered that summer when Carly died, ‘cause the calico cat appeared not two days later. She’d cheered everyone up a little, playing with the dozens and dozens of butterflies flitting about in the fields. Auntie Jane had begged please mama let me keep her until finally her mama had said alright then Jane, just quit a pesterin’ me!

“Billy Mosier was one of them lads in the stylish black tuxes, out there dancin’ like a jitterbug on a tree stump,” Auntie Jane had said. “He’d wrecked his suped up sports car at not quite nineteen that very same summer. Wrapped it clear around a big oak tree just outside of town. Billy was a looker, and all the girls mourned his death for quite a while. He had a way about him, what with that dark silky hair fallin’ over thick lashed eyes,” Auntie Jane admitted to me with a sigh. “He always dressed in black, from his wrangler jeans to his shiny leather jackets and polished boots. ‘Cept in summer. Then he drove the girls wild with his sleeveless T’s, showing all them muscles on his big strong arms.” Auntie Jane laughed when she told me that.

Can you imagine such a dream where all the young people, whose lives were cut short by an untimely death, turn into finicky felines and frolic about under the harvest moon? To think they became human again for one night of romping good fun down by the river! My Auntie Jane was a wonder with her tales of such silliness. She never lacked for imagination, and yet I believed she had her wits about her more so than those that would say otherwise.

Tom came crawlin’ back after the last harvest moon plum tuckered out enough to have been dancin’ all night for sure. Lookin like something the cat dragged in, I told him, but he only closed them bright yellow eyes to my smart-alecky tone. If I didn’t know any better, I’d believe the entire tale Auntie Jane told me, ‘cause that tomcat barely woke up long enough to eat for nearly a week. No more roamin’ the hot Indian summer nights after that either, just rolling on his back in the dewy grass out front, and batting an occasional firefly.

This particular summer my niece Lillian Landis graced Tom and me with her presence. Her mama done had it with Lillian, and I thought a cooling off period might not be such a bad thing. I offered to take the rebellious teen into my home for a spell. My sister, Rosie, was grateful to send her to me so she could make it through a day without tears and trauma. Sis knew I couldn’t keep that child from her evening escapades with all the other teens in town, but I did promise to make the lovely Lillian compromise between cautious conduct and careless carousing.

She was a lovely sight, that girl. Missy Lil had attributes to match her name, being a delicate child with smooth lilywhite skin, and a fragile sweetness about her despite the rebelliousness of late. One night I prepared to follow Lil out the door and down to the river, where I’d heard them naughty young folk were skinny-dipping and laughin’ up a storm on these hot muggy nights we’d had of late. The river backed up into one big pond by the cliffs and it was there I could see them all clearly in the light of the near full moon. They were lyin’ about real snuggly like and kissin’ between drinkin’ and smokin’, and jumpin’ into the water to cool off their sweaty skin. Probably more overheated from all that kissin’ than the suffocatin’ weather.

I decided right then and there that my niece would not be returning to the banks of the river where sin was runnin’ near amuck amongst our wild and willful youth. The only thing keeping me from draggin’ her sorry self home right then was the mere fact of rapid waters between us flowin’ steady and strong along the banks of my field and the cliffs of her rompin’ grounds. By the time I would forge my way to the other side, she would surely already be headin’ home.

Oh how I longed to see her lilywhite face by midnight, which was our agreed upon curfew, but she didn’t appear at that hour, or the next. Finally I called Rosie and the police. They showed up at dawn with Tom, who was dismayed to come home from his prowling about only to find a parcel of strangers on his coveted porch. At noon Rosie and I sat on the swing exhausted from worry. Tom was curled up tight nestled in the foliage beside the porch rail. Nothing was stirring but the bees on the honeysuckle.

A squad car pulled up and my heart near leapt into my throat as the officer approached us. Sure enough our Lillian had been found, her sweet little body all mangled like a crushed flower, fallen over the cliffs by the river. Lots of alcohol was found in her blood after tests determined she had stumbled to her death. Rosie was overtaken with grief and there was nothing I could do to help. My own sadness made me restless as a cat; pouncing on anyone who dared knock at my door for weeks after the funeral.

I had almost forgotten it was time for that bright harvest moon again, until it slowly began to rise one night, the sky all-aglow from its shimmering haze. Tom slinked off with a decidedly perky prance that evening, his sleek black fur nearly standing on end. For what I wondered? I thought about my Auntie Jane and her crazy story of the dancing cats turning into lords and ladies, takin’ on familiar faces of the young and foolish, whirling about in the light of that big yellow sphere, defying their tragic deaths. What nonsense it was, but still, it soothed my aching heart to think that just maybe my Miss Lil could be all footloose and fancy free like that for a full harvest moon, despite the fall that brought her future to a sudden halt.

I snuck down to the river that night, and was able to see every plump ripe blackberry on the bushes along the bank, that moon was so bright. It did take awhile to reach the shore, as I’d near forgotten what a hefty hike it was. Pantin’ up a storm I peeked through the reeds and wondered what them teens from town were doing on the other shore, by the pooled up water near the cliffs. I soon forgot about them entirely, as my eyes beheld a feline fantasy. Every cat imaginable was lying about, swishing their tales and licking their paws, as I lie in the cool grass and watch through my bed of reeds. Next I cannot be sure what happened. I suspect I fell asleep from weariness and dreamed the dreams of Auntie Jane long ago. For soon every cat began twisting and twitching about until their bodies slithered into fancy gowned gals and gussied up suitors.

I watched them dance eloquently and became mesmerized by soft melodies on a faraway fiddle. Shadows moved across a voluptuous harvest moon, and kept in motion with the haunting tunes. I dared to believe I saw our Miss Lillian, all titillating in green taffeta, her emerald eyes set off by the stunning gown. She danced with an alluring young stranger who could have been Billie Mosier, what with his dark tousled hair tumbling over thickly lashed eyes.

I awoke, at just past dawn, with the field before the flowing river clear and void of all movement, cat or ghost either one. Dazed, I stumbled home and slept til well past noon. When I slid open the squeaky screen door to glance about for Mr. Tom, he was nowhere to be seen, but I had to look twice upon the gently rocking swing, for its yellow flowered pillows held another feline now. A dainty white cat lay there all prettily perched upon her back haunches, whining a high-pitched meow at me. I near stared right through her glowing green eyes and then quickly went to fetch some cream.

A few weeks later Rosie came by, her first time out since dear Lillian’s death. She asked me who was playin’ queen, lookin’ all pampered there on the porch swing. I told my sister I had no idea where that Tom had run off to, or why the white tabby now fancied this her home. Rosie asked what was I gonna call the cat, for Tom would never do.

I came and stood beside my sis there at the door and gazed upon the sublime creature that had left her queenly swing every evening to carouse along the river.  I shrugged an indication of not having bothered with a name, and Rosie took it upon herself to call the fluffy feline Snowball. T’wasn’t a chance in hell the rebellious bundle of fur would allow for such a silly name. My choice was more fitting, although I was quite careful not to mention it around my dear sister, who packed up and moved to Florida in order to forget her pain.

My new feline friend and I have snuggled up every morning since then on the white slat swing, where I read the daily paper and my delicate Miss Lily drinks her cream. I’ve seen Tom on several occasions, hangin’ about when the shadows fall sideways and evening dew begins to gather. He sits off aways in the distance beyond the picket gate and waits for Lily to finish grooming her dainty little face with her sticky pink tongue. When finished, she bolts from the chair in a most graceful manner and is off with her tomcat, who has come a callin’ …to roam along the river in search of whatever it is that can only be seen by the light of the moon.

By The Light of The Moon has twice received recognition for excellence and is published in 2 different anthologies: WomanScapes by DLSIJ Press and Internationally Yours: Prize Winning Stories by Joyous Publishing. 

Other work by Kathryn Mattingly: The Stein Collection



Best Wine + Good Earth = East of Eden

LPTrendsFood: Writer Kathryn Mattingly knows the best wine comes from the good earth (somewhere east of Eden) … where biodynamic farming keeps everything in balance, in this the second installment to her biodynamic farming series this week. June 20, 2012

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A small but mighty Amador woman, Betty Riley, has taken on biodynamic grape growing almost singlehandedly in an effort to restore balance to the land and what it produces.

I visited Betty recently and spent an afternoon lovingly tucking grapevines into their wire corrals while watching a red tail hawk fly overhead. It was cawing repeatedly with each glide by. We spied her nest housing a newborn not far from where we worked. Betty shared how the hawk in the air was a property ‘pet’ returning to share the circle of life.

It’s impossible to work the land without running into a variety of wildlife. A jackrabbit eyed us nervously while nibbling clover a few rows down. Fortunately, the snake that left his gnarly shriveled skin tucked beside a vine was long gone.

You have to ask yourself how much these creatures we share the earth with must appreciate the biodynamic farming Betty has established on her vineyard. Chemicals used in the past couldn’t have been any more pleasant for the fury or slithering wildlife than it was for the humans applying it.

We ended our afternoon of vine tucking by sipping on some of the just rewards of such work from the wine cellar. I took the opportunity to ask Betty some questions about her grapes.

How long have you been living on the vineyard and what has been one of your biggest challenges since working the land alone as a woman?

I’ve been here since 1991 and have been doing all the farming since Jan 2007. One challenge is the mechanical side of things. This Lady Farmer did not learn about such things in school, although I am picking it up as I go! I am blessed with a lot of local Amador friends who support me. When I first began tending the grapes alone, they helped me learn things I needed to know. Two very dear friends who were immeasurable in guidance were Dick Cooper and Tom Dillian.

After harvest in 2010, Daniel D’Agostini, who does biodynamic gardening down the road from my vineyard, took me to Napa to meet friends who were biodynamic vineyard managers – Dave Bos at Grgich Hills and Michael at Quintessa. These dedicated men spent many hours showing me what they do and answering my questions. Daniel shared books with me on biodynamic farming and was a faithful mentor in the process.  Together we are now making our own biodynamic preps (it will take me several years to fully transition my property).

2011 was my first biodynamic/organic year of farming.  So proud of myself in knowing NO chemicals were used (that means, no RoundUp!).  I brewed my own teas as foliar spray, adding ascorbic acid, kelp and whey to the mixes. I began by using 2gal hand sprayers to do the work. It took countless hours walking and spraying.  In the July/August timeframe, I began using my 50gal spray rig, which really helped me get through harvest.

It must be rewarding to know that you’ve accomplished transitioning your vineyard back to an all natural environment and that your ‘best practices’ for health and balance of nature have produced the best grapes ever grown on your property!

What other challenges have you overcome to make this happen?

Another challenge has been finding harmony with the crews I bring in to get some of the bigger maintenance jobs done, such as pruning and crown suckering/tucking the vines.  The first year my vines suffered a lot of breakage and I just wanted to cry. Most grape growers allow for a certain amount of loss.  Not me. Every single grape matters and so now I hand pick my crews as much as possible, and work along beside them whenever I can. I really do have fun with my crews now, always calling them my “angels.” They work HARD, and deserve to be appreciated and respected for all they do.

I’ve worked beside you in your vineyard to tuck those grape vines in, and can easily see that if anyone is too rough with the delicate vines there will be breakage. Not many are as passionate about the final outcome as you are – protecting every single glorious grape from seed to harvest.  Is anyone else in Amador doing biodynamic farming?

I know of other grape growers who are farming organic, yet to my knowledge, I am the only grape grower in the County farming biodynamic/organic.  The principles of biodynamic farming appear to be embraced more in El Dorado County.  Winemakers, who are familiar with organic means of farming, are usually more open to biodynamics.  There is so much good that comes with stepping into “balance” with mother earth. I am witnessing the proof of this with every new year of biodynamic farming.  Proof is in the final product, the grapes produced – and my buyers are pleased.

As we all know, there are many different types of grapes that grow well in the Amador climate. What do you grow on your vineyard and who do you sell them too?

My grape varietals are:  Barbera, Primitivo, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Souzao, Pinot Noir, Nebiola, along with a hodge-poge (a vine of this and one of that).

Seasonally, I have 10 or 12 different buyers.  Depending upon crop availability I may have additional buyers. Typically my buyers are all repeat customers. Many of them have been buying my grape for years.  Andrew Tanis, of Tanis Vineyards purchases a lot of my varietals – Barbera and Primitivo, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Pinot and in years past has taken my Syrah left to hang for use in making a late harvest or dessert wine.

Scott Mahon of Legendre Cellars is another repeat buyer who gets my Grenache and Petite Sirah. Tom Dillian, of Dillian Wines is my biggest buyer of Primitivo fruit. In 2009 he was so pleased with the grapes in one specific area of my vineyard he made their first Reserve Primitivo.  Each year to date, Tom has taken more of my Primitivo. This year however, he got cuttings to graft over some of his own vines, so there’s a chance next year I may have more Primitivo available for new buyers.

Tell me a little about how biodynamics work. I know you have a calendar that tells you what needs to take place during each season.

I have always known and am most sensitive to the fact that everything living is made up of energy.  We are energy, the vines are energy.  For me, biodynamic farming is simply attuning to the life force (energy) of the vine. It’s always humbling to be in my vineyards at harvest and have winemakers/buyers acknowledge the evidence of the TLC I have invested in my grapes.  In 2011, Joe and Reno of Fiddletown Cellars popped in to check sugars as we were nearing harvest – I was spraying whey on the vines to clean up mildew and Joe said to me, “You’re hand polishing EVERY berry!!!”

Everything done biodynamically is homeopathic in nature. It’s using nature’s gifts to naturally restore balance, health and vitality to the vines.  When plant life is balanced, it can grow and thrive, verses being weakened structurally thus opening the door to disease.  Much like us and our human bodies.

Biodynamics is applied using a calendar as a guide for when best to apply each nutrient. There are Root, Fruit, Flower and Leaf days.  Depending upon the aspect of life force for nutritional treatment, application is done in conjunction with seasonal influences.

Biodynamic 500 (cow manure) is applied in the fall after harvest and again in the Spring at time of cultivation, on Root days.  500 promotes root activity, stimulates soil micro life and increases beneficial bacteria growth.

In the spring, I make teas from Yarrow, Chamomile, nettles, oak bark and dandelions, and spray them foliar, applying on associative days of best cosmic influence. I add ascorbic acid (to help the vine strengthen itself and develop resistance to pests and disease) and Kelp to add micro nutrients needed for vitality.  In July I add Whey to the mix to deal with any mildew. Whey also adds beneficial calcium and structural nutrients to influence strength – the same way calcium helps human bones.

Working my vineyards with these sprays is like getting a spa treatment. Much more pleasant than when I used to cover up from head to toe to avoid getting sprayed by chemicals which can cause any number of allergies and probable diseases.

Where do you get the ingredients for all your spraying?

In principle, it is best to grow your own materials for these biodynamic uses because then it contains the life force and vitality of the actual area where everything is transpiring.  I was thrilled to discover I had Yarrow, Dandelions, and Oak Bark readily available to me on my property.  I have since begun growing Stinging Nettles and Horsetail. Chamomile and Valerian are accessible to me in this area as well.

Once you are through winter and spring what happens in the summertime with the biodynamic applications?

End of May-June is typically time of bloom. During this time, ideally, you leave the vines alone to go through their magical stage of transformation from seed to fruit berries.  Did you know that different grape varietals, like different flowers, have their own unique scents in bloom?

The Barbera has this amazing, robust sweet floral mix of scents. The Tempranillo has this more elderberry scent with a hint of eucalyptus. I am beginning to understand why our wines can have these interesting smells, which may seem so unusual.  The plant takes on the personality of the terrain in which it is grown. It is well known to winemakers that the same varietal can be grown on different plots of land, very near one another, and be completely different in character.

How amazing to experience all the different varietal aromas! That’s one advantage to growing so many different types of grapes on your vineyard. What happens at harvest time?

Depending upon the growing season, harvest begins anywhere from mid-September to early October for Red varietals.  I have so many different varietals and they each come along at their own timing – even my hillside, which is mostly Primitivo, ripens at different rates.  I contact my buyers and ask them to begin checking the fruit, because harvest of each area is done at their call, in coordination with my getting a crew in to do the harvesting.

It takes about six weeks to harvest all the varietals. On any given day, I may have fruit going to one or multiple buyers. It takes considerable coordination to pull it all together, and I am thankful for my repeat buyers who have become quite helpful in assisting with the coordination process. I have friends and neighbors who have worked with me year to year at harvest.  My harvest crews are always the BEST and I enjoy having the opportunity to work with the same ones each year.

My day at Betty’s vineyard was as sweet as the wine we drank that evening on her deck overlooking the straight immaculately groomed rows of healthy well-nurtured vines. Nothing quite compares to hand polishing every berry with a kiss of love -and natural sprays aligned with the energy of the universe!

You can find this East of Eden on the Shenandoah Highway, where the magic of oak tree speckled hills will eventually bring you to endless rows of grape vines. Follow the straight furrows of precious fruit to winery doors open for tasting. No paradise lost here. I would say it’s everything you need for a sultry day of sipping and dreaming about the good earth, and all its many treasures to behold.

Article by Kathryn Mattingly.

Enjoy also the first installment of this series: Biodynamic Farming/The New Foodism.

If you liked this, you might also like: Yes You Can Paint & It Isn’t the Mimosas

More on biodynamic farming: About, by Organicconsumer.org

 

 

Family Glue

#LPTrendsFamily: Kathryn Mattingly does it not just again with Family Glue, but with stunning humor, insight, and candor. LPMag is so lucky to have this extraordinary voice…

Family is the glue that holds us together. This is good to remember in-between bouts of breakage. Somehow, when feeling invincible, unstoppable and downright successful we tend to take family for granted. We might even find them somewhat annoying – like a bottle of spilled glue running all over our neat tidy lives leaving a trail of stickiness.

Who wants a reminder that we are indeed vulnerable and imperfect, rather than this strong solid vessel of perfection we purposefully present to the world? However, when our world falls apart, only family is there – super glue in hand – to fill those crevices of doubt with renewed confidence in ourselves.

It’s an unfortunate reality that our relationship with family, like glue, can occasionally become quite messy. Sticky situations arise. When we choose to unstick a family member through divorce for instance, it generally makes for an ugly rip or traumatic break of some sort for everyone – causing families to seldom look seamless and smooth. Rough spots and cracks, however, are a reminder that nothing’s perfect.

Without the glue of family, our chances of surviving brokenness are greatly reduced. Family bonding is key to our survival on many levels. Like super glue, a super family is permanently bonded if you’re lucky. It depends on how carefully you apply the bonding process and how patient you are about letting it setup and take effect.

         How do you do that you ask?

Well, it takes a lot of unconditional love. Strong families are all about forgiveness. Caring for one another and not being self-absorbed, or self-righteous… or self anything is also key to family bonding. Strong, successful families will tell you the truth with love, sometimes whether you want to hear it or not – but they will also forgive and even help you rebuild whatever it is you’ve broken. And we all break things in our lives – causing consequences to come crashing down on us.

A well-bonded family is there to pick up the shards of glass and take your hand, walking you through the shattered mess, helping you bleed as little as possible. Scars would be much deeper and more noticeable without family glue to reform, reshape or reestablish us.

The best part is that while helping you pick up the pieces of your life they are not stating the obvious. Rather than tell you there are so many tiny fragments it is not possible to glue them all back together – they convince you that you can become whole again. Assuring you the world can once more be your oyster and they will help you find the pearl.

Of course, those fortunate enough to have a family like this do realize eventually that the pearl is the family itself, and thank God they are always there when you need them to bedazzle your sorry, world-weary eyes.

So, try never to run out of family or glue… because when you need it, you NEED it, and nothing else will do!  A good support system is everything it’s cracked up to be – and then some.

If you liked this by Kathryn Mattingly, you might also like:

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Dance Chicago: From Orland Park To Istanbul

Kathryn Mattingly’s Latest Short Fiction

Filmmaker Travis Andrade Dreams Big

#LPTRendsFilm: Interview w/Travis Andrade. An online database and mobile app to experience histories greatest…writer Kathryn Mattingly takes you a journey of dreams, clouds, and talent as she introduces you to a filmmaker we know you’ll hear more of, and just one more example of innovation and creative intelligence at work in today’s technological wonderland._______________________

“What is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the future on the past.”

                                                                                                                         ~Victor Hugo

Recently I went to the CloudBiography website looking for information on Ghandi and there it was – at least all the important stuff. For my purposes that would be the highlights of who he was and what he did, and when he did it… rather than the nitty-gritty details of his every angst from birth to death.

You might say the video on CloudBiography kept my head out of the clouds – where daydreaming happens if bored to death by pointless details. The short films are stimulating, interesting and a far cry from high school history class! No monotone voice to deal with either. It’s a pleasant accented gentlemen you can easily envision sitting beside on a hot day while sporting khakis and leaning against some ancient stone wall, pondering the mysteries of life. Or should I say pondering the mysterious of those who lived life so beautifully out-of-the-box?

“All of these historical figures, for better or worse, changed the world.”

                                                                                                            ~CloudBiography

Travis Andrade and his masterful team founded this online database, comprised of short videos on approximately 80 worthy historical figures so far. They plan to have hundreds within the year. You can find these informative clips on the well-known greats at: http://www.cloudbiography.com/

Everyone from Beethoven to Karl Marx and the Wright Brothers are there. I learned more from these ‘video cliff notes’ (as Travis fondly calls them) than I ever did in school. Travis and his team successfully raised funds through Kickstarter.com (an online fundraising platform for entrepreneurs) to build a mobile app for their site. Because of this app, Travis and his team have reached several hundred thousand people in over 150 countries between their website, blog and YouTube channel Cloud Bio.

The Interview

I recently asked Travis some questions about the past that formed him, the present that drives him – and the future he’s planning.

I know that you’re originally from the Bay area, but where else have you lived and where are you presently located?

I live in Brooklyn, NY. At 13 years old my family moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Memphis, Tennessee. I attended High School in Memphis and graduated from Middle Tennessee State University, which is located outside of Nashville.

When were you first interested in history?

I think my interest in history evolved as a byproduct of diving into countless period films and documentaries. I enjoy the experience of witnessing character drama that unfolds as a result of any cultural implications that may serve as story anchors. I find this both in fiction and nonfiction. Even when these stories are of some ancient or medieval culture, the drama still manages to feel fresh and real.

Who are your team for the CloudBiographies website and how did you meet them?

Val is one member of our team whom I met in film school. She’s a filmmaker and web designer. I had the opportunity to make a short film and during post-production in Rome I taught English, both privately and in a few elementary and middle schools. That experience led me to become friends with a married couple who are both teachers. Tim is originally from England and his wife Anne is from New Zealand. About 9 months after moving to NYC, I contacted them to see if they were interested in working with me on a website that hosted short video biographies of historical figures. They both live in New Zealand now, but fortunately we’re still able to work quite well together. We speak so frequently through Skype and email that I sometimes forget they’re thousands of miles away.

What inspired you to research, write and edit short video biographies of historical figures? 

I’ve always liked to read biographies of historical figures. Sometimes I had trouble finding a reliable source for this information that was visual and relatively consistent. I wanted the bullet points, the “cliff notes.”

I decided to create a place where people could go to watch a short video of a historical figure that would more or less be a highlight reel of their accomplishments and overall influence.  I wanted to keep the videos simple and succinct.

CloudBiography.com is a jump off point and perhaps our site can help people understand who and what they’re looking for.

Are you planning on doing more ‘video cliff notes’ or do you have other interests in mind to pursue?

My real pursuit in life is filmmaking. In LA I worked mainly in the camera department for film and television. I wrote and directed a short film, which shot in Tuscany, Italy in 2010. “Viola” went on to win the Rome Independent film festival. It also played at the Manhattan Film Festival here in New York as well as a few smaller festivals. Here’s the IMDB link http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1734564/

I did watch a clip from your film and thought that it was very well done – suspenseful, dramatic, really perfectly timed and artistically directed. When did you know filmmaking in general was the line of work you wished to pursue? 

My first job was at a movie theater in Collierville, TN when I was 15 or 16. I worked there part-time for roughly 4 years. That experience had an enormous impact on me.  Then I worked at a production company in Nashville while in college.  I met a Director of Photography on a music video shoot who was working on some big projects.  He was an LA guy who had this unapologetic swagger about him. We were on lunch and he said to me, “So what do you wanna do in film dude? Do you wanna shoot?” (Shoot, meaning be a DP.)

My response was about how I like cameras, but I’m really interested in screenwriting and directing. He kind of smirked at me and finished his lunch. What I didn’t realize at the time, as the words were falling out of my mouth, was that a huge DP was extending his hand and I smacked it away by telling him I wanted the other guy’s job. I felt deflated later when I saw how well he directed his camera crew, how loyal they were to him and how they broke their necks to create the scene he and the director had envisioned.

This and many other experiences all sort of culminated in a decision to go to film school.

Researching and writing about historical figures is a lot different than writing a screenplay. What possessed you to tackle the screenplay for Viola?

Funny enough, I graduated from college with a degree in Journalism, but decided to study cinematography in film school. I didn’t really get into screenwriting until later. There was a SAG strike and a WGA strike when I got out of school. The first few gigs I had were in reality television because the shows I was on were non-union. The technical experience was great, but I was coming home a little unsatisfied. An early draft of my first script was almost entirely written in the early hours of the morning, after I got home from the set.

Do you plan to write more screenplays?

I’ve written scripts for others in the past, but have at least two of my own that I hope to make someday. Screenwriting is essential for absolutely any young director. At the studio level the jobs are often separated. In indy filmmaking it’s crucial to have a hand in creating the characters and their respective paths. It will only help you to realize those characters as you communicate the story to producers, actors, the director of photography, the production designer and other essential crew personnel.

What were your biggest challenges filming your first movie?

With any film the biggest challenges will always be time and money, regardless of scope. We certainly struggled with both of those things.

Did winning the award for your short film open the door for any future opportunities?

To some extent, yes. But I can assure you that the experience itself was far more valuable.

What will you do differently based on what you learned filming Viola?

There are probably too many things to list… but next time I’ll try to relax and have a little more fun!

What are your future goals with movie making?

I’m interested in both feature film and documentary film. My next immediate project will be in the fall. I’ll be shooting a documentary in Burma/Myanmar. We’re planning to begin in a little border town called Mae Sot, in Thailand – and will then head west.

The documentary will focus on the youth of Burma and how they perceive their world to be changing as the National League for Democracy, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, struggles to instill democracy in Burma. This change, however slow and painful, is happening organically. Our goal is to take a brief look at the generation that will make that change possible. We’ll be there to observe and document during this critically significant time.

Did you have any especially inspiring teachers or family members who helped shape who you are today as a person?

My greatest teachers are my experiences. But that goes back to both of my parents who gave me every opportunity and always insisted that I dream big.

Travis is a perfect example of how dreaming big can turn into successful achievements. You can find CloudBiographies at: www.CloudBiography.com and on facebook: www.Facebook.com/cloudbio or at twitter: www.Twitter.com/cloudbiography. A clip from the award winning film Viola can be viewed at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1734564/.

Kathryn Mattingly’s Latest Short Fiction

by Kathryn Mattingly

As part of offering quality short fiction that moves readers, we present The Stein Collection, which received a first place award in the Carpe Diem Publishers annual short story contest. It was also recognized for excellence and published by Tyrannosaurus Press.

About the character: Kell is perhaps not what we would define as an entrepreneur so much as an opportunist. Nonetheless she laboriously sweats over finely crafted steins, which, not by coincidence have much to do with the drinking and dancing establishment she owns and operates. The author would share that there really is a Kell’s Restaurant and Pub with live music near the waterfront in Portland, OR. A lot of history surrounds the old brick establishment that sees gray rainy days more than sunny ones and still serves cold beer with tall tales on stormy nights. Read the full story here.

***

Sam stood in the rain listening to live band music and the clinking of glassware from Kell’s bar. Through the heavy paned window, she glimpsed elbow-to-elbow people on metal stools at a highly polished counter. Shelves jammed with bottles of liquor in every shape and size hung on the wall be- hind the bar. It was a cozy picture of a patron-filled pub on a Saturday night.

The Week That Was & What’s Coming Up

The Possibility Place: Bridge to Everywhere

Today’s Possibilities…

Family Values, by Lori Anderson. A perspective on respecting and supporting the values of another. Zanzibar, by Susan Bainbridge. Our first step into the Eastern Hemisphere, exploring what connects us across lands and experiencing exotic places of wonder and beauty. The Stein Collection, by Kathryn Mattingly. A ghost story, a love story, a story of discovery. Short fiction you don’t want to miss.

Next Week - Resistance, by Jackie Dotson. Resident business therapist Jackie Dotson gives us the answer for fighting past the walls of resistance to change. - Becoming a High-Performance Entrepreneur, by Rich Pirrotta. Wharton-fueled leadership expert and regular contributor Pirrotta offers 3 unique, tested tips to high performance as a builder and starter-upper of all things. - Habits of Mind, by Tracy Saville. A look inside 16 habits of mind to change everything.

Last Week You Missed…Nothing is EZ, by Christopher Karne Frost. The story of Billy Blackburn, entrepreneur, Grammy-quality musician and songwriter; inventor of an aeroponic agricultural system for cloning plants in an entirely sustainable, environmentally responsible manner that could feed the world. Life in the Groove, by Lori Anderson, and interview with Fitness Guru and Radio Personality Tina Anderson. Courage to Change, in her own words – Dr. Patricia Gayman’s Story of Courage; inspires us all!

 

 

LP – The Risk Issue – December 2011

Dec 2011 LeadingPossibilities Magazine

Laura Wilde - Extraordinary Feature

Read the new issue HERE.  Subscribe to this free quarterly magazine and weekly column of high performance life, business, and career advice HERE.