Author Archives: nadasamih1984

About nadasamih1984

Revolution requires creative resistance...write or be written.

Once upon a Time…

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“Media are major industries, generating profits and employment, they provide us with most of our information about the political process, and they offer us ideas, images and representations (both factual and fiction) that inevitably shape our view of reality.” (David Buckingham, Media Education)

I immigrated to the United States in the fall of 1990.  Iraq invaded our adopted country of Kuwait (my family was originally from Palestine) in August of that summer and after weeks of fleeing and general bureaucratic drama we finally landed in little Rhode Island, making us refugees twice in three generations.

The most memorable part (even though there were many) of leaving the only home I ever knew in Kuwait was the fact that I was only allowed to bring one toy and one book along on that journey.  This was a tall order, an only child and grandchild who (until then), but been lavished with every toy, craft, and Barbie dream house set available in the 80’s.  I spurned the cabbage patch kids and Barbie bedroom set for the soft and cuddly panda bear I aptly named Dabdoob. (Doob is Arabic for bear).

The infamous Dabdoob posing with a photo of my youngest child

The infamous Dabdoob posing with a photo of my youngest child

I provided emotional support to poor little Dabdoob (he was a bit guileless in his young years) on the journey out of Kuwait; military checkpoints, arid desert heat, custody battles, embassy lines, patriarchy, you know the usual…and the main way I did that was by reading to him.

The book I chose was my favorite at the time, Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid.  Now, before we get any farther, I need to clarify this was NOT the Disney version.  Happily ever after was ambiguous for the Little Mermaid, who ended up essentially sacrificing her life for that of her love, the prince.  You can read this version Here. It was clear that even at that young age, I already had deeply entrenched ideas about gender, female power (or lack of it), and societal expectations.

A mermaid has not an immortal soul, nor can she obtain one unless she wins the love of a human being. On the power of another hangs her eternal destiny.

I mean you may as well take out “mermaid” and replace it with female here and take it from there.

Unseen she kissed the forehead of her bride, and fanned the prince, and then mounted with the other children of the air to a rosy cloud that floated through the aether

Yup, here she is, giving it all up so that the prince can have this other lady while she floated through the aether until she can earn an immortal soul…

anyone wanna tell her they are other fish in the sea...?!

anyone wanna tell her they are other fish in the sea…?!

 

Well, needless to say, Dabdoob was totally taken by it, but I wasn’t buying any of it. I liked my princesses strong and loud with big badass hair but it would be another twenty years before Hollywood and the general media caught up.  At least it kept us occupied while my mom replenished our water supply in the intense August heat, or when we ran out of gas on the outskirts of Bagdad.  The familiar story lulled us to sleep in the back of my mom’s read Honda at the desert sky darkened and filled with stars.

Flash forward a couple months in America, I found myself repeating first grade since I had zero English. I have vivid memories of my teacher being really nice and patient. For one of our projects that year she had us write stories.  My oral English was fine, but I hadn’t mastered reading or writing yet.  She let me tell her my story while she transcribed my words for me to copy down later and this was the result:

The Poor Princess

The Poor Princess.  Wait? Is she levatating?

 

 

And here is the story page by page:

 

dat penminship tho

dat penmanship tho

 

story-2

 

What's better than a cookie eating monster vanqushing princess?

What’s better than a cookie eating monster vanquishing princess?

 

story-3

 

story-4

 

happily-ever-after

Big hair dont care

 

last

The end.

The princess didn’t need anyone’s help, just her own ability to eat a magic cookie. BAM!

In 2nd grade I created a princess that was also able to enlist the help of forest creatures and the natural environment to kick invading colonial forces (okay, an evil witch) out of her land- er, castle.

I wrote this one is 2nd grade!

There was ALWAYS a princess...

The princess was made a refugee, wonder where I got that idea from?! Ha!

 

My stories have gotten more complex over the years (probably not by much!) But the ideas of going against the general or popular grain of social expectations, especially ones reflected in the media remains at the heart of my writing. Dabdoob is not impressed though, he doesn’t like making waves.

Before the war, surrounded by my bday loot!

Before the war, surrounded by my bday loot!

 

 

 

 

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The Flood

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The Flood ( Summer 2016)

 

Wellfleet

 

It is there.

There I must go before returning. Before tending to responsibilites.

There I must go.

There I must see.

It becomes clear as I round the bend that there is simply no more road.

Cars that traveled before me have submitted to their fate, their unfinished plan and pulled over to park.

I decide I must do the same.

It’s gleeful to change course.

To be forced to stop.

To surrender.

To be gently reminded of my smallness

What insignificant monarchs we are. inconsolable children who must have their way.

Nothing and everything, divinity in the smallest, but humble acts.

Magic in washing dishes, tending to children, cooking meals.

No longer will we seek out what can be found within

pilgrimage not to a holy site, but to the corner store for milk and eggs.

Basic duties are holy.

Magic everywhere. ruin everywhere. despair everywhere.

Hope bleeds out of our eyes like open wounds.

How beautiful destruction can be.

The road, now two feet under water is still hot from the sun under my submerged bare feet, but the water passing over it is cold.

Bay water that spilled its banks like an over full tub.

The sea birds seem to not have noticed.
I feel relived that the earth, the storms, the flooding, mirrored what I felt, what we have been going through.

so much pushing and pulling, plotting and planning-arguing and counter-arguing- when I should be surrendering instead.

Kids These Days

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Kids These Days (2015)

magic

Light as a feather, stiff as a board

Anything could happen child, anything could be.

My child today: my brown boy one day brown man-child

Days after news of school shootings. Weeks after and before another Black person slain

Talked about emergencies, running to his aunt’s house that is close to his school, knowing how to get there

I respond in jest: yeah in case something happens, like what? like alien invasion, bad robots, things like that?

He says that is not real

it will be a man with a gun that causes me to run he says.

These days,  is there still room for magic?

How do I let her in?
like a nervous alley cat?

Do I open a can of tuna, leave the door cracked and hope it will want my food enough to

wander in?

Please, I pray

For his sake and mine.

Won’t you wander in?

 

gorey

Not Since 1948

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unknown

Super moon

Beavermoon

Tonight we meet again.

Not since 1948.

Is it mere coincidence?

68 years ago we gazed at the moonrise from verandas overloooking the sea

We sipped sweet mint tea and spoke in hushed tones as the sky darkened

perhaps even gasped at she climbed the horizon, illumating her glorious fullness.

What A marvel! I could hear my great grandfather say. How bright it must have appeared to them then in the cloudless Levant evening.

Was the moon whispering messages then, as she is today?

Or it enough to just shine her glow on all our dark spaces.

“I see you” she exclaims dryly.  Like a sibling’s weary game. “You can come out now.”

Be prepared

Come together

Build your dreams

There is no where left to hide.

 

 

unknown-1

 

 

 

 

 

The Shore/ Submit

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The Shore

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My relationship with the shore has always been this.

Nothing but sea and sky.

Nothing else in my head.

How far ive drifted from even this, my most basic of anchors.

It’s enough even just to feel the edges now,

the edges of myself seem satisfying now.

Ill take it.

I recognize it’s not just me, but Earth that is also trembling.

She is heaving, insides upturning. like so many times before,

Millenia folded upon millenia, reaching, streatching.

We become like the dry river bed spreading like tentacles that quickly dry in the sun’s encompassing snare.

Unsure when our banks will taste the water but still we reach.

__________________________________________

Submit

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Submit I said.

He knows this is his challenge, says he can not, will not submit.

The word vibrates like rain striking the ground

Soon this, I can so plainly see, will be under the sea

To submit, I know is not a surrender but an act of active listening

like turning to face the wind so she knows you have aknowledged her

I describe it as an instinct, knowledge we were born with; to submit is to activate the divine deep in the marrow

We were taught how to submit, to place forehead on ground in supplication

There is peace to be found in greeting the earth

But what is prayer to us now?

Oceans removed from where we were meant to be

He will not bow down

Submission requires pliancy, the ability to bend as to avoid breaking

I ask the earth to remind me and here I am doing the reminding.

Sometimes its easy to forget, among the sameness and drudgery- that we are in love

That we are saving each other

that we are catching each other when we fall

that our souls are in communion

we were drawn together for this unraveling-of this I am certain.

 

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Story Research: What’s in a Name?

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There is much to be said about the origin of words and especially, names.

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Whenever I hit a snag in getting a writing idea off the ground, I brainstorm some concepts and look up the etymology of the words.  Almost always that sparks inspiration and a clearer sense of direction for my writing.

For example, take a look at the etymology of name:

one’s reputation”             “well-known,”             “the essential thing or quality”

When you know someone or something’s name, you know the main, or essential quality of the thing… or I could take this to mean that one’s name could also describe qualities they are well-known for… this would hopefully help me with naming characters.

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As a mom, I’ve had the opportunity to name these little people who are my children. I was taught this was the single most important task as a parent as the name has the potential to describe a child’s personality and place in the world. I probably feel this way because of stories my grandmother told me as a child.  A little bit of family folklore:  my grandmother used to say that parents think they name their children, but the name actually already exists out in the world and parents only hear it when the creator wanted them to hear it.  Apparently, the name was their destiny anyway as it reveals information about how they would be in the world. She told me that it was no coincidence that my name is Nada, meaning hope. Yes, very nice, thank you Grandma!  I could get into an interesting debate regarding fate versus free will and all the opposing views that often exist side by side, but that’s for another day!

So what’s in a name? For my creative writing, I am inspired by looking at whether names run with or opposite of what is expected. I think it would be fun to create imagery, settings, and characters based on this concept. There is lots of space here to create multilayered meaning, or irony.

Also, I can’t talk about naming without seeing it from a post-colonial lens: that which you name, you own and control. luckily, many of the original names of places in and around Rhode Island survived all these years.

Roger Williams and the Narragansetts

                               Roger Williams and the Narragansetts

In 1636 Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, settled on the east bank of the river and was told its name by the local Narragansett Indians. The name “Moshassuck” means “river where moose watered”.

Here’s some more name info I’ve gathered:

  • Woonasquatucket River (pronounced /wuːnˈɑːskwəˌtʌkᵻt/, Algonquian for “where the salt water ends”
  • Quinnipiac River: (Quinnipiac) “where we change our route”
  • Conanicut Island: (Narragansett) named for a 17th-century chief Canonicus
  • Conimicut: (Narragansett) thought to be named for granddaughter of Canonicus
  • Hockomock Swamp: (Natick-Abnaki) “evil spirit” or “hellish place”
  • Siasconset: (Narragansett) “at the place of many/great bones” (whales?)
Providence

Providence

  • Pawtuxet: Little falls confluence of north and south branches of the river at river point village in Warwick. empties into Providence River at Pawtucket River.
  • The place we call Federal hill,  was known as Nocabulabet: place between the ancient waters
  • Moshassuck : river where moose watered source: pond in lincoln’s lime rock preserve.
  • Woonasquatucket: where the salt water ends, Where I wrote about Here!   

This post wouldn’t be complete without a break down of the name I choose for the blog itself several years ago: Now Approaching Providence.

Providence means God’s grace-and grace could mean- among other things- favor, esteem, regard, pardon, mercy.

Turks Head in downtown Providence; looking graceful.

Turks Head in downtown     Providence; looking graceful.

The name fit as I often feel like I might be approaching, but not quite arriving at… Providence.

 

Happy Writing!

Short Story Research: Taxidermy

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“… And here at last, was a real naturalist — the man who had been the first to explore Lake Okeechobee, who had been bitten by centipedes, who had written a book, who had collected turtle eggs for Agassiz [Louis Agassiz was the director of the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology at the time], and who had been so nearly paralyzed by arsenic, absorbed in his mounting of skins, that he walked with a sort of quick scuff and shuffle!” ~Dallas Lore Sharp

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The early 20th century was marked by an obsession with the act of preserving- whether plant, animal or human.

Folks have always been obsessed with living forever, but taxidermy took it to another level! Early on, arsenic was even used as a preserving agent, hence Jenks resulting paralysis.

Could this obsession with living forever be connected with fears related to expanding urbanism, the failings of European colonies, and increasing industrialization? I see it as all connected and all waiting for a juicy horror story featuring some gory taxidermy details! Yum!

                “Had Bicocur lived in ages past, hc would havc heen accused of witchcraft and enchantment. What wonders has this excellent naturalist been able to unite in his cabinet. These are truly immortal.”  

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Ahh taxidermy!

In 1894, the curator of the Jenks Museum of Natural History at Brown University was returning to the museum from lunch when he dropped dead on the very granite steps that led to the institution he loved and tended for 23 years.

Annie Johnson, a Brown alumna, chronicles in the spring of 1962 how an attic filled with spears, pottery and other artifacts was discovered as a wrecking ball was set to demolish Van Wickle Hall on campus. The items ended up at Brown’s Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, says Dwight B. Heath, emeritus professor of anthropology at Brown.

How could I not be inspired to create some sort of short story on this Jenks dude and the resulting “artifacts” that were dumped?!

Here are some notes I’ve gathered to help me with the writing process:

taxidermy (from the Greek for arrangement of skin[1]) is the art of preparing, stuffing, and mounting the skins of animals (especially vertebrates) for display (e.g., as hunting trophies or museum display) or for other sources of study (like species identification) or simply the preservation of a beloved pet.

– In the 19th century, hunters began bringing their trophies to upholstery shops, where the upholsterer would actually sew up the animal skins and stuff them with rags and cotton.

-In France, Louis Dufresne, taxidermist at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle from 1793, popularized arsenical soap in an article in “Nouveau dictionnaire d’histoire naturelle'” (1803–1804). This technique enabled the museum to build the greatest collection of birds in the world.

Additional resources:

http://www.ravishingbeasts.com

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxidermy#Tanning_and_early_stuffing_techniques

The ornithological cabinet of Jean-Baptiste Becoeur and the secret of the arsenical soap: http://www.rhinoresourcecenter.com/pdf_files/119/1193254263.pdf

 

photo-6 copy 3

 

This is just the tip of the taxidermy iceberg folks!  Ima keep digging!

 

Ambrosia

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Ambrosia

I will leave the light on

For you.

For me.

For the vision of me this new love allowed.

For the life I so easily divined from first we met.

After shadows so dark they threatened to choke out what little remained.

Unknown

A vision felt but not seen

Darkness, after all can be fertile

imagination sparked

There is no going back

They used to stutter my name

Even in the midst of the daily drudge, The hustle of bills and care taking, attention to detail.

That glow remains.

images

 

I think of you first whenever I approach a book store display.

Endless possibility

 

I want that spark, that light, to come away from the periphery

to settle in and become my center.

My north star.

It is there when the daily battles with myself toss me in darkened waters

onto unfamiliar shores

When I find it hard to remember my name.

You return all my senses back to me, to remind me of my divinity

This whole language I have with myself, in which you are mysteriously fluent

Unknown-1

 

A hidden and fortified room I built

where the strongest and most vulnerable pulp resides

Where it shelters, conjures

pulls at the sticky sweet nectar, ambrosia.

Unknown-2

you understand it without knowing, communicate without sound

I let you in

you clear out the cobwebs, keep away marauders.

Unknown-3

 

I love you more than I knew was possible

darkness sweeter and deeper than I could conjure

When I lose the way,

when thousands of lifetimes scramble my frequency,

The light bends in a way that makes me feel your presence

your intention

 

 

I hear you whispering my name

and I return.

IMG_1786

 

Short Story Research: Creatures!

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Who doesn’t love a good creature story?

classic mermaid folks

just a classic mermaid here folks

Nothing gets my imagination fired up like a tale involving mysterious creatures.  Below are some of the creatures I have been researching for some upcoming story ideas.  Enjoy!

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Cackatrice

-Can cause death with a single glance

-Eyes can turn you to stone

-Protection involves-carrying a mirror

-breath is poisonous

-Enemy is a weasel

Cackatrice

The Regal Cackatrice

The Soucouyant

The soucouyant is a shape-shifting Caribbean folklore character who appears as a reclusive old woman by day. By night, she strips off her wrinkled skin and puts it in a mortar. In her true form, as a fireball she flies across the dark sky in search of a victim. The soucouyant can enter the home of her victim through any sized hole like cracks, crevices and keyholes.

Soucouyants suck people’s blood from their arms, legs and soft parts while they sleep leaving blue-black marks on the body in the morning. If the soucouyant draws too much blood, it is believed that the victim will either die and become a soucouyant or perish entirely, leaving her killer to assume her skin. The soucouyant practices black magic. Soucouyants trade their victims’ blood for evil powers with Bazil, the demon who resides in the silk cotton tree.

soucouyant

Lovely Soucouyant

To expose a soucouyant, one should heap rice around the house or at the village cross roads as the creature will be obligated to gather every grain, grain by grain (a herculean task to do before dawn) so that she can be caught in the act. To destroy her, coarse salt must be placed in the mortar containing her skin so she perishes, unable to put the skin back on. Belief in soucouyants is still preserved to an extent in some Caribbean islands, including Dominica, St. Lucia, Haiti, Suriname and Trinidad.[4]

 

The Kappa

The Kappa

These scaly-skinned humanoids hail from Japanese folklore. The name roughly means “water-child,” and myth has them inhabiting Japan’s ponds and rivers. The hairless plate on the kappa’s head carries water, the source of their power. Sometimes they’re tricksters. Sometimes they’re killers. Either way, kappa make excellent stories.

The Kelpi

The Kelpi

Oooh! A mer-horse!  The Kelpi

You’ll find kelpie myths near water too, but only in Scotland. Their names are associated with horses, and this is their native form. But they’re just as likely to take on the guise of a human. That makes it easier to lure unsuspecting men and maidens into the water.  Read more on the Kelpie:  HERE

 

The Ichneumom

Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 8, 35–36, 37): ” The ichneumon is known for its willingness to fight to the death with the snake. To do this, it first covers itself with several coats of mud, drying each coat in the sun to form a kind of armor. When ready it attacks, turning away from the blows it receives until it sees an opportunity, then with its head held sideways it goes for its enemy’s throat. The ichneumon also attacks the crocodile in a similar manner.”
Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 2:37): “That which is produced from the smell of this beast is both healthful and poisonous in food.”  Ewwww!

The Ichneumon

Our old pal the Ichneumon

Leonardo da Vinci [16th century CE] (“The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci” edited by Jean Paul Richter):” This animal is the mortal enemy of the asp.

The Asp

The Asp

It is a native of Egypt and when it sees an asp near its place, it runs at once to the bed or mud of the Nile and with this makes itself muddy all over, then it dries itself in the sun, smears itself again with mud, and thus, drying one after the other, it makes itself three or four coatings like a coat of mail. Then it attacks the asp, and fights well with him, so that, taking its time it catches him in the throat and destroys him.”

The one and only Cthulu

……and of course I live in Providence so I can’t leave out Cthulhu!  According to Wikipedia, Cthulu is considered a Great Old One within the pantheon of Lovecraftian cosmic entities. The creature has since been featured in numerous popular culture references.Cthulhu’s anatomy is described as part octopus, part man, and part dragon.

Cthulhu

Dead but dreaming

I wonder what lurks beneath these waters…?!! hmmm?!

Providence River

Providence River

 

I hope these inspire me as I set out to create my own Providence River monster! My wheels are turning; More info about our local gator: HERE

 

Heart

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Unknown

 

A new study suggests that women almost always acquire fetal cells each time they are pregnant. They have been detected as early as seven weeks into a pregnancy. In later years, the cells may disappear, but sometimes, the cells settle in for a lifetime.  The research group investigating this possibility followed the activity of fetal microchimeric cells in a mother rat after the maternal heart was injured: they discovered that the fetal cells migrated to the maternal heart and differentiated into heart cells helping to repair the damage. This astounding discovery indicates that fetal stem cells are capable of differentiating into a variety of heart cell types, including “beating cardiomyocytes,” which may heal the mother’s physical heart.

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Heart

Heart,  Blood,  Tissue,  Skin

Deep in the dark waters it begins

cells divide rapidly, form and reform

Movement always

Formation of organs, muscle, bone

and heart

Quickening

Intelligence

Consciousness

Knowing

~~~

I saw his aura, she says, fluttering around yours

months before the seed

He has been waiting for this

They nourish each other, a two-way street

share oxygen rich blood, nutrients, and dreams

heartbeats overlapping, layering

composing a unique song

whether he is destined to take root or float on

the smallest, most potent parts of him become her firmament

her protection

the very valves and ventricles of her ever-beating heart

~~~

The waters churn, form waves

Hips heaving

her soul grips tight, almost follows as his passes through

Sharp sounds, warm skin, familiar voice

even after a lifetime pieces remain

stay behind to keep watch

Shapeshifters

Guarding the beating drum

The rhythm at the core of all beginnings

Never resting

Rush towards the weakest chambers, build new walls, grow new vessels

Age old mysteries reveal themselves slowly

but I always knew

you were my Heart

 

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