News from the Raven

I just received my copy of News from the Raven: Essays from Sam Houston State University on Medieval and Renaissance Thought. I don’t have an essay in this book, but I designed the cover for my friend Dr. Darcy Hill.

The book is a compilation of essays that were presented last year at the Conference on Medieval and Renaissance Culture and Thought that was hosted at Sam Houston State University. It has essays on literature, architecture, culture, music, rhetoric and composition. Several of my friends have essays published here. I keep flipping through the pages admiring what a good job Anna Jennings did with the interior layout. The publishers, Cambridge Scholars, seemed demanding when we were working with them, but the result is really nice.

The Raven Game

This game was developed to present at the 2014 Computers & Writing 2014 at Washington State University. The presentation was entitled “Gamification in the English 1302 Classroom,” and it was written by Kim Davis and Jake Gebhardt. The game was designed to fit into a freshman composition class. The hope is that it will interest students and help them to engage more completely in the learning process. For more information about this game, visit http://grammarize.org/c-w-2014-at-wsu/.

Strings of Solace

By Kim Davis © 2011

Late, late, late! It seemed like no matter how early she started getting ready she just could not get out of the apartment on time. Now she was going to blow her interview with Dr. Bonham before she ever got there. Crap! Of course she had neglected to plan enough time to park, and totally ignored the fact that she didn’t know her way around the Northwestern campus. Continue reading “Strings of Solace”

The Hummingbird Minuet

I sat in the cool, still morning,

Gathering my thoughts;

Deciding whether to beseech or assault the day.

Humming filled the air

And called my eye

To the red liquid suspended in glass

From my porch roof.

A pair danced there;

Whether duel or duet was hard to tell.

Tiny rapiers thrust forward

They came together.

Buzz, buzz—too close, it seems.

Pause in perfect unison,

Sip the wine,

Then rise to dance again.

The photo that inspired this 2006 poem was taken by my daughter, Jacqui Davis, on our back porch many years ago when she was just learning the art of photography. She had promise even then! —Kimberly Davis

Hog Hunters in Texas

How the problem started

Hog hunters have seem like they are everywhere in Texas any more. All over the state, farmers and ranchers are having big problems with wild hogs. These intelligent and adaptable creatures can wreak havoc on cultivated land and even prey on livestock. They can live in any kind of terrain, from forest to swamp, from brush to desert.  According to Texas A & M University, Texas is currently home to an estimated 2 million feral hogs descended from various European breeds imported as livestock. It’s a practice that goes back to the 1680s.

As destructive predators and disease carriers, the feral hog population has naturally attracted the attention of hunters. These hogs provide great sport for many of my neighbors. Here, people raise horses, and recently they’ve taken to raising hog dogs. In fact, my own “head of security” is a very large Catahoula Cur, a favored breed among hog dog breeders. So, the opportunity to reduce the feral hog population and get outdoors on horseback with a pack of dogs is irresistible to many folks around here. It’s a rare and justifiable opportunity to live the cowboy life in the 21st century.

Sometimes stuff goes wrong in spite of every precaution

I just learned about an accident a young man I know, a hog hunter and hog dog breeder, had last week. I knew that the boy had broken his collar bone, but I had not heard how, so this morning when I saw his dad I asked what happened. The details made me sit down with a thump. The story was way scarier than I imagined, and it took place on a hog hunt. Now, before anyone has a chance to assume that youthful carelessness was the cause, let me stop you. The family in question know all about hunting safely. They know how to ride horses, and they took all the they were as careful as they knew how to be. The boy was not allowed to go hunting without adults present  because his dad knew the risks.

It could have happened to anyone

The hunt was on horseback, on family-owned land with dogs and a whole bunch of seasoned, grown-up hunters. They were driving a large group of hogs through a wooded area and moving fast. The kid simply hit a tree while ducking and dodging limbs. It could have happened to any of the hunters that day.

The injury was worse than just the broken collar bone I’d heard about, but the young hunter is going to heal. I expect that the images from that day will forever be burned into his father’s brain. He said he thought as he rode in the ambulance beside his son that he’d gotten his boy killed. Just telling me the story made him choke up. That dad is giving thanks to the Almighty today that he still has his son. And it was an accident that could have happened to anyone. It happened in a heartbeat. (Don’t they always?)

So I’ll close with a simple reminder to all you wild, crazy adventurers: Have a good time, but be careful. We are not immortal. That young hog hunter was fond of telling his dad, “Nothing’s going to happen,” but as the dad told me, “He wore that excuse out.” I’d like to add . . . Kids, your parents aren’t as dumb as they look!

In depth information about the Feral Hogs in Texas can be found at http://feralhogs.tamu.edu/, and in particular check their resources section: http://feralhogs.tamu.edu/publications/

© 2011, Kimberly Davis
“Hog Hunters in Texas” originally appeared in the Extraordinary Jobs for Ordinary People online newsletter.

“Mommy, I See Jack!”

March 25, 1996 Journal Entry

“…With Jack so unwell, I have to admit that I’m just waiting for him to die.  This clinging to life with drugs and constant pain and fear is so ugly.  I just wish it would finish.”

March 26, 1996 Journal Entry

“Oh what a day!

Jack died at 10:00 a.m. Texas time.  Mom’s just called – all in pieces, obviously…”

My relationship with my stepfather, Jack, was always strangely close. I remember the first time I met him when I was eight years old. It was as if I’d been waiting for him all my life. I clearly remember being irresistibly drawn to him, even though at that time, both my mother and he were married to other people. It was not until nearly 4 years later that I saw him again when he arrived to take my Mom on their first date. I clearly recall thinking “Oh, there you are. What took you so long?”

I can’t imagine a more devoted husband for my mother. As a strong-willed woman who openly competed with men in business, Mom didn’t find it easy to relate to men on a romantic level. She had always fit in better as “one of the boys.” Jack, on the other hand, was the “strong silent type,” but with a difference. He had several special gifts, among them an eye for color and design, and an amazing ability to empathize with others.  He was my mother’s champion and protector for 24 years.

I wanted to do something special to let Jack know how much I cared for him, so I named my first child, Jacqueline after him. Little Jacqui at the tender age of 27 months accompanied me to Texas for Jack’s funeral.

Mom was a basket case, and stayed that way for much longer than I thought was healthy.  Where she had been a strong level-headed business woman before, without Jack she found herself, for the first time in her life, a helpless woman in a man’s world.  She let her business suffer.  I think she ate nothing but banana pudding for nearly a year.  So when she literally begged me, my husband and daughter to come home for a vacation in September 1997, we couldn’t refuse.

By this time Jacqui was talking, and she talked quite a lot about Jack.  I can recall driving along and having her shout “Mommy, I see Jack!”  She did this a lot.  One time I was really amused when she was chattering away in the back seat and I couldn’t quite hear her, and she told me, “I was talking to Jack.”  I can’t remember what she told me they were talking about, and neither can she.  Sadly, now Jacqui is 8 years old, and says she doesn’t remember her conversations or visits with Jack at all.  Seems to me like only yesterday she was telling me she saw Jack with wings guarding her in bed at night.

That visit led to us relocating to Texas from Spain. Our bedraggled little family arrived just in time for Thanksgiving, and the visits from Jack began to affect us all.  We’d left nearly all our electronics in Europe and bought new stereo, t.v., and computer when we got here, so it really caught our attention when the t.v. and stereo began to turn themselves off and on. It was never scary, but it happened consistently enough to both my husband and myself that it was a topic of conversation. And from that time right through till the present, we have gone through light bulbs at an alarming rate. We can’t blame it on the wiring – we changed houses. We can’t blame it on the lamps – it happens in all the light fixtures. We can’t blame it on the light bulbs – we even bought the long-life bulbs.  I think Jack’s, visiting.

In the spring of 1999, just as the famous Texas wildflowers were blooming, I rejoined the workforce.  My second daughter was just a year old.  Every day as I drove past a particular field of bluebonnets I felt like Jack was with me looking at the beautiful wildflowers with me.  It was a road he’d traveled often in life, and I know he loved that spot.  I’d mentally try to talk to him, and in response, I always got a sort of electrical charge, which I’ve come to think of as confirmation from the spirit world about whatever I happen to be thinking about.

Around that time I had a dream in which I was with my mother and a new gentleman friend of hers.  We went to see Jack.  A fit, young Jack about 30 years of age invited us into his home.  It was impeccably decorated, and there was a little dog.  Jack took us out to see his new car and seemed very pleased with my mother’s new fellow.

April 3, 1999 Journal Entry 

“…‘My work is almost done,’ someone just told me.  I don’t think that implies an ending, but rather a beginning.”

I was quite surprised when I wrote those words in my journal.  I’d heard them clearly in my head, and it was just as clear that I did not think them.  I knew it was Jack speaking to me.  When the wildflowers finished blooming, I stopped having my visitor in the car on the way to work, and the odd electrical goings-on became less frequent as well.

What really clenched it for me was a conversation with my mother on the porch one Saturday shortly after that.  Now, you have to understand that Mom is not a person who ever had anything to do with anything metaphysical.  She had however been reading about reincarnation.  In particular she told me that “Many Lives, Many Masters” by Brian Weiss brought her the most peace she’d found since Jack’s passing.  On this particular Saturday, Mom and I had had a bit too much wine, a rare occurance in our family, but the wine tasted good and it was a day for talking.  I’m not sure Mom would have told me about her conversations with Jack had we been sober.

Jack ColeShe said, “I’m really pissed off at Jack.”

I babbled about that being a normal reaction to grief.

But she said “No. I have been talking to him since he died. Always out on my balcony where the table is. The other day he told me he’s got to move on and do other things, and I need to go on without him.”

Of course, the day coincided with my message about his work being finished.

The happy ending, if there ever is an “end” to any story, is that Mom has indeed moved on.  Though it has taken her nearly 7 years, she is once again the confident, outgoing woman Jack loved when he was alive.  We all remember him, and we miss having him around to talk to, but his visits made it clear to us that we will see him again.

 

© 2004, Kimberly Davis “Mommy, I See Jack!” originally appeared in Real Stories of Spirit Communication: When Loved Ones Return After Crossing Over edited by Angela Hoy, ISBN: 1-59113-442-0

Bad Things Really DO Happen at Sea

© 2004, Kim Davis
This article originally appeared in
the
Extraordinary Jobs for Ordinary People online newsletter.

For several years now, I’ve been writing about working aboard yachts for a living.  I’ve explained how to get started, where to train, and where to look for work.  However, I have not said much about the scary stuff.  And it should at least be acknowledged that some scare stuff does happen at sea.

I wrote this one morning in 2014 after I received this e-mail:

As a clearer picture and more reliable reports come in we are glad to report that Mirabella V has not gone under as one report that came in yesterday had reported.

The latest information is that the wind and sea state have dropped from the Force 6-7 which was blowing yesterday and Mirabella V is sitting upright again. Today Mirabella V sits amongst the rocks with known keel and rudder damage as well as some damage to the hull as they work on the plans and wait for the tugs to free her from the tight grasp of the rocks hopefully before the big blow.

Again hats off to the 206ft M/Y Big Roi and 282ft M/Y Ecstasea which stood by Mirabella V to assist in saving the vessel and in the evacuation of the crew.  One report states that during one of the attempts by Big Roi to free Mirabella V a 40-tonne bollard was pulled out of her aft deck.

I called Greg Mullen for more information.  This drama is all unfolding in the Mediterranean, at the entrance to the Beaulieu sur Mer Marina, at St. Jean Cap Ferrat.  There was a Mistral blowing through that region of the Med last night, and the crew of Mirabella V, lead by captain Johnno Johnson were on board.  They were evacuated safely with the help of the two big motor yachts who came to their aid, and stayed with Mirabella trying to hold her off the rocks through the night.  The French navy arrived around midnight last night.  To the best of Greg’s knowledge, they’re still working on pulling her off the rocks while keeping her afloat.  The good news is that the winds have dropped.

Several things came to mind for me as I talked with Greg.  First, I feel strong “thank you” vibes going out to the crews of Big Roi and Ecstasea.  That’s what we train for, and God bless them for getting out there and braving the storm to help another crew in trouble.  They stayed out in moderate gale force winds straining the ships’ engines and parting their lines all night long as they tried to rescue Mirabella. When those big towing lines part, it is extremely dangerous.  The crews who were on deck last night were literally putting their lives on the line. This strong camaraderie among yacht crews is a big part of the magic of the industry. As Greg Mullen pointed out, this is what all that safety training is about, and the reason we do safety drills.

Finally, Greg and I discussed the issue of stability that keeps coming up with regard to the new super sailing yachts that are being built.  Mirabella V is huge for a sloop.  She was designed by Ron Holland, and she’s 246 feet long with a retractable keel.  The keel goes down to 32 feet when it’s fully extended and up to 12 feet when it’s retracted.  I’m not sure how tall that single mast is, but very, very tall to be sure.  That’s the problem with the big sloop designs.  The mast is so tall and heavy, that a very deep keel is required to balance it.  In optimal conditions, the sloop rig is very fast under sail, but that begs the question, what about when the conditions are not optimal?  Are the uncertainties about the ship’s stability worth the risks?

The take-away? Keep up to date with your safety training.

What makes a “Weather Guy”?

An interview with Jim Kline of the National Weather Service
originally published in the Employment Times, May 19, 2003

By Kim Davis © 2003

All of us who are involved with any aspect of the travel industry are deeply affected by the weather.  As a marine biology student-come-sailor, a significant part of my education involved the weather, both on the job and in the classroom.  Our lives often depend on our being prepared for the violent forces of nature, and without the help of the world’s professional meteorologists, our chances of surviving the terrible storms we encounter would not be nearly as good.

This week, Jim Kline, of the National Weather Service, took the time to answer some questions for us about his fascinating job as a professional meteorologist. Continue reading “What makes a “Weather Guy”?”