The first digital camera to find its way into my hand, changed all that. Suddenly, everything that caught my eye, also came in front of my camera lens. One thing led to another, and I had uploaded an unmanageable mass of pictures, and needed to organize them into some type of grouping. That is when it became obvious that I had taken a huge amount of photographs of blooms. I would have said I liked flowers, a bit, but I didn't have a flower garden, or buy flowers for my house, or browse through bulb catalogues.
So I didn't realize how often I stopped, and admired a bloom, and smiled at its vibrance, and preserved that beauty in my camera and my heart. But the truth was there to see, by far the largest album I could create was the one I called "blooming."
I still didn't ask myself why those fragile, temporary blossoms held my attention. But I uploaded that album to my screen saver and began to find myself mesmerized by the slide-show as I sat down to chat in a forum or write on my novel. There was something about the brave, perkiness with which those little beauties demanded the attention, of what could be a dangerous world.
While I was working on my novel, Duffy Barkley is Not a Dog, I was having to relive times when I had been abused and bullied and had learned that the safest thing to be, was invisible. I was realizing that the reason I was such a shy, observer and recorder, was a habit learned in grade school, when being noticed often meant being attacked. I had learned to hide with my nose in a book, and as an adult, I still took videos of those who sang and danced, I was behind the camera, writing in the journal, the family historian.
Then came the dreadful realization that the person who was comfortable, alone at the writing desk, would have to stand on the stage to promote the book. The writer and the marketer are two very different personality types, but in this modern publishing world, to be successful, the writer must become the promoter.
The description that I wrote of my protagonist in the introduction to my novel was an apt description, not just of Duffy but of many victims of schoolyard bullies. Myself, included.
" Then he met Skull, and for the first time, but not the last -
Duffy Barkley was called a “Dog.”
Most of us know a Duffy at one time in our lives. Some of us
have even been one at some point or another. If we were lucky we
learned to dare to expand beyond our skin, bit by bit like starting
a warm summer day with only our big toe in the cool water.
Immersing ourselves, inch by shivery inch in a world where some
people really can love us for who we are.
Duffy and the others like him learn to be invisible as a survival
skill. Sometimes it works. Sometimes they just turn down the
volume on themselves in order to go unnoticed. They tone
everything down and pull back into the smallest bubble, deep
inside their own skin. They then get so good at being unnoticed
that sometimes there is no longer any personality there to hide.
For awhile it looked like this would happen to Duffy, then for
awhile after that, he wished that it had.
Nine year old Duffy has Cerebral Palsy, which is often called
"C.P." C.P. began for Duffy when he was born too early and for
awhile didn't get enough oxygen. So, unlike those people who
develop C.P. later in life when their breathing has been cut off due
to an accident or an illness, Duffy has always had to accept that
who he is, is a person who can't keep up with his peers in some of
the most obvious ways. At nine he uses foot and ankle braces
which are a light, plastic support which straps onto his feet
over his socks but inside his shoes. Duffy balances himself on
elbow crutches with a plastic sleeve which he reaches through and
then he grasps a rubber handle grip similar to the ones on his
People usually see the crutches before they notice Duffy's face
for the first time. Unfortunately, once he started kindergarten he
became good at making sure they often didn't notice his face at
all. Even his silence helped them avoid his eyes. When they didn't
include him in the easy chatter of the classroom, he wouldn't have
admitted that he excluded himself, but each time he felt even
smaller and less willing to reach out the next time he met
School was difficult for Duffy because he was teased by
bullies and called "Duffy Bark Bark." The crueler kids liked to
taunt Duffy by saying that "He walks on four legs like a dog but
couldn't lift one to pee without falling down." Duffy truly
believed that he had to suffer in silence. He thought that seeking
help would make everything worse. So he stood there as he was
teased, staring at his shoes and hoping that they would become
bored and leave him alone. He thought that the adults in his life
wouldn't understand or even if they did, that they wouldn't be able
to help. If he told, he thought he'd make his enemies hate him
even more, so he never told, not in kindergarten and not in fourth
Duffy would have hated school except he truly loved and still
loves learning, especially anything creative. He loves to draw and
paint so he was happy during art class because he could work all
alone in a quiet corner. He liked to sing in the school choir
because he didn't have to audition, and he didn't sing loud or try
for a solo so he was lost in the crowd and could relax. Sometimes
art and music were the only things that made him heave his
weakened body out of bed and pick up his crutches for another
day. Sometimes his teacher father would talk about the fact that
music and art might have to be cut because there wasn't enough
money. When he heard talk like that he held his breath and felt
like someone was discussing cutting out his heart.
He hated the classes where people actually looked at him, like
the times when he had to give a speech or write on the board. He
didn't like the in between times and above all he dreaded lunch.
Being alone at lunch was a quiet agony but better than the
demeaning little digs he endured every time the wrong kids
remembered his existence. Other kids were assigned to help him
carry his lunch tray to the table but they usually just set it down
and hurried away-He mumbled "thanks" but never met their
eyes and never ever invited anyone to sit down with him.
Duffy mainly got by, by carrying a book with him at all times
so he could escape a little and so he could have something to look
at to keep himself from accidentally meeting someone's eyes. Too
often they had only snarled, "What are you staring at, ya creep?"
Duffy didn't trust anyone who appeared to be offering
friendship because too many times he had been approached with
seeming kindness only to have himself lured into a trap so the
others could laugh at him. Once in first grade he had been happy
to be asked to sit at a table group by the five other kids
who sat there. They smiled and laughed in friendly ways and
included him in the history project as their class designed a desert
diorama. Duffy painted a background in the lid of a pizza box. He
painted a sunset, towering saguaros and silhouetted mesas. Other
kids filled in sand and small plastic snakes and hares. Their table
group won lunch with the teacher. The day they came in for pizza
the other five turned their backs each time he approached. Then
after lunch he came to the table and a pretty girl with ribbons in
her long hair hissed. "Go away. Don't you know we just needed
you because you paint the best." and they all laughed as he stood
there, blinking at his brace encased feet.
The only child Duffy had allowed close to him, who had never
betrayed his trust, was Isabel, his sister. Izzy was a laughing,
dancing Independence Day rocket who lit up Duffy's life with joy
and energy. She loved her big brother unconditionally and to his
great puzzlement, even at school she continued to brag that he
was her brother. She raced across the playground to hug him,
often nearly knocking him off his feet, but then ran on to play
with the many laughing first grade girls who always
If things had kept going the way that they were Duffy would
have made it to high school graduation in a bubble of his own
creation. Inside the walls of that bubble he would have shrunk a
little every day. He would have gone on believing that because he
was different he was also somehow less than the other, more
graceful, "normal" kids who seemed to have no problems in
knowing what to say and when to laugh. Maybe Izzy could have
kept enough joy in his life that he wouldn't have given up.
Maybe? Yet even in the everyday world of school and home,
things have a way of changing. Suddenly a stagnant situation can
no longer be taken for granted.
One day Duffy was noticed and rejected. His bubble shattered.
It seemed his world was breaking up beneath his wobbly feet. For
awhile he just wanted to fade away. He might have done so
except for the love he felt for Izzy. His small sister had always
been strong and vibrant and filled with the joy of life. Now she
was quiet and pale and near death. For Izzy's sake, he wanted to
help but then his parents sent him away. They said that he couldn't
help except by agreeing to leave them alone so that they could
concentrate on what needed to be done.
He either had to give up or become stronger. If he didn't die
then he had to choose to be very visible. In fact, Duffy, silent no
more, would have to sing that solo. "
And when all is said and done, if you have dared to BLOOM - There will be seeds remaining once you have faded away