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Archive for February, 2008

I take a risk when I write, period. Risk that I might say something I can never take back. Risk I might say something that someone will recognize, like the time I wrote about going to the Taj Mahal with R. How we met in the lobby of our hotel before sunrise, and how I was embarrassed to be seen with him in his pleated gray slacks, thin leather belt, and striped Polo shirt. How I thought he looked like he was dressed for a morning of golf at the country club, not for a rickshaw ride at dawn.

I take a risk when I write about sex, when I talk about money or politics. Those are the big ones, questions of how much I make, what I’m worth, the way we calculate all that in dollars.

I take a risk when I say I never wanted to be poor. My parents were poor. Poor never leaves your bones. It resides in your DNA, stays with you the same way brown eyes and olive skin stay with you. Nothing you can help, checking the price of the bathroom rug, buying things only on sale and only at least 50% off.

I take a risk when I write about my body, the fact that yesterday I shaved my legs for the first time in months. I clogged the razor and exposed the bumps on my skin where I’d scratched until the pores rose like freckles on a strawberry.

I take a risk when I write about my skin, the living organism that covers more area than any other part of my body, write about its color (a sort of cappuccino), about its consistency (smooth, soft), its elasticity (firm but losing firmness, especially sagging breasts and sagging skin under my arms).

I take a risk when I say I’m growing old, I’m the age where I first had memories of Mom, strong memories, lucid and vivid, of her knees and calves, which are mine now.

Writing is a confession, a small booth that smells of musty wood and Old Spice. Father Cassidy, who smells of bourbon and ashes, who has sweet breath and sour, a big belly and gentleness.

I take a risk when I wonder aloud, did he ever molest anyone? I can’t help but ask myself that question every time I think of old priests from my youth. He used to pinch my cheeks, but I remember nothing more unsavory than his boozey breath.

I take a risk when I admit I never brought charges against the man who did molest me, even though I knew he probably dated women with young girls long after he divorced my sister. I should have protected them, should have taken more of a stand, although, yeah, I was protecting me.

Sometimes, and here’s the real risk, I think we all get what we get. The cards are dealt for a reason. I could have gotten an ace or a pair of queens, but instead I got a joker, a deuce, and that became who I became.

I’m not saying I deserved it, no more than any one deserves violence or abuse or cancer. But sometimes there’s nothing any one of us can do to change the course of life.



-related to post, WRITING TOPIC – TAKE A RISK

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The Sky, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Stars, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






Possibilities, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Mother Goddess, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






The World, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The World II, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.





These are our February mandalas for The Great Round: Stage Two – Bliss. Again, we used Crayola markers and colored pencils. The feel of coloring the Stage 2 mandalas was very different than The Void mandalas of January. I pay attention to the colors I am drawn to when I sit down with the circles. My body responds to color.

According to the book Coloring Mandalas by Susanne F. Fincher:

Color is produced by waves of electromagnetic energy perceived by cells in your eyes, your skin, and your bones. Reds have the longest wavelengths and transmit the least energy. Violets have the shortest wavelengths and the most energy. Red is stimulating, blue causes relaxation. Color is simple, direct, and measurable in the natural world.

Color is a way in to your personal life story. Wearing colors we associate with a specific memory, or another time in our lives, layers our experience. Color is universally physiological, personal, and cultural. If I start to make a list of the colors I have used in the last few months, patterns start to emerge.

I wanted to get these up before February ends. Of course, it’s a Leap year, so there’s one more day of February in 2008! Stay tuned for Stage 3 of The Great Round in March.


FIRST PAIR:  The first two are the same template, Sky & Stars. One is completed, one in progress. We are shaped by our choices. The challenge of Stage 2 is to focus on only one choice, and take it as far as you can.

SECOND PAIR:  The first template of the 2nd pair is about living a life pregnant with possibilities. The second is based on an illustration by archaeologist and archaeomythologist, Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess. It is about the mystery of memories of birth (and before). The regenerative powers of the Great Mother were worshipped by many of the Ancients.

THIRD PAIR:  The two mandalas in the 3rd pair are the same template, Earth, the universal womb. The first is Liz’s in colored pencil; the second I did in marker. I enjoy seeing the same templates, side by side – same lines, different colors.


-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, February 28th, 2008

-related to posts, Coloring Mandalas, The Void – January Mandalas, and WRITING TOPIC – CIRCLES

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I get up at 4:10 am, the latest possible time I can rise and get dressed, make a cup of coffee, brush my teeth, warm the frost off the car, and still make it to the airport 45 minutes before my 6 o’clock flight.

The plane is almost empty. I sit alone on row 12, over the wing. Something about soaring west, away from the sunrise yet still into the light, away from freezing cold into a temperate environ — makes getting up that early all worthwhile.

We reach cruising altitude. On the tray table in front of me are:

  • pens and doodling journal
  • writing notebook
  • cell phone on airplane mode
  • coffee and cream in a styrofoam cup
  • plastic glass with tomato juice and ice

Plane acoustics are like large restaurant acoustics. A din — combination of the pressurized cabin air, the murmur of men talking a few rows back, the jets. It is perfect white noise.

I dread trips that contain any of the following: multiple stops, change of planes, crowded coach seats, more than two hours. But a hop in a near-empty plane from Albuquerque to Phoenix is perfect.

Even the stale plane smell is absent. Even the bumps are forgiven. Airline attendants are just the right amount of attentive when the passenger load is light. Everyone leaves everyone else alone.

The moon is still out as we bank over the sprawling city. I see it hanging just above the tip of the wing.

I am self-sufficient. I have everything I need in my leather case and rollaway bag. The plane empties quickly. Walking through the airport, I am still protected in my bubble. Strangers traveling don’t make eye contact.

In the three hours since leaving my home and driving my rental car to the exit booth, I have said only five words:

  • “Coffee, four creams”
  • “Thanks”
  • “Ba-bye”


Certain plane rides are so ordinary, they are special.


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Mano Poderosa (Omnipotent Hand), gouache painting and etching
on wood, retablo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





heart to head to hand:
what am i willing to bleed?
the risk of writing






-related to post, haiku (one-a-day)

-related to post, WRITING TOPIC – TAKE A RISK

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The Full Snow Moon was bright, then blood red, the last Total Lunar Eclipse until 2012. There are many names for February’s Moon: Sleet Moon, Goose Moon, Coyote Moon. I even found a reference from the Sioux, Raccoon Moon. I thought of our resident raccoon. I bundled wool over exposed skin, stood outside in no wind, -6 degrees of chilled air, watched the shadow of Earth fall between us and the Moon.

We could only stand to be outside for 5 or 10 minutes. Then we would quickly roll inside, warm up frost-fried fingers, fumble with camera buttons to see if we got a good shot. Blurred, no tripod. Back outside again. Even near a large city, it was silent, clear, you could see a spattering of stars through crimped branches of oak and elm.

The Eastern Cherokee call February the Bone Moon. Food grows thin, sometimes runs out. The Ancients gnawed on bones, made soup in steaming black pots over wooden tripods on fire. The white Bone moon disappeared, slowly eaten by Earth’s shadowy darkness. And in its place, indirect sunlight that still managed to bounce off the moon, turned into red, blues filtered, sucked out by the Earth’s atmosphere. The red moon is warm. We stood staring, not wanting to talk.

February is a lean month. I am restless, can’t stand to be in the house. I have moved to a coffee shop close by. I’m staring out at what is left of Winter’s dress – dirty brown snow. Cars fly past on their way to Rainbow Foods. There are only three of us left inside. I slow-drink a latte (skim), set Natalie’s book out on the table next to my headphones, cell phone, a black caribou jumping through a turquoise hoop. Is it a Snow Moon caribou? Or have we crossed a line into March.

I fattened up over Winter. I can feel a lumbering, I like the word lumbering, in my Soul. And my body aches to run, screaming through the wilderness. I guess that’s what I loved about freezing my butt off, staring up at the Snow Moon. The wildness of it all. I heard the dogs bark down the street. I wanted to scream. I don’t think I said anything to Liz, but they were barking through the whole 3 hours of the eclipse.

I wonder what the Ancients thought, standing around, coyotes circling, staring at the moon disappear behind invisible shadows. How did they make sense of it? A god, a goddess, another force to be reckoned with.

I have not seen the raccoon paws again. But water was dripping off the shingles when I left the house. Puddles splash across the sidewalk, rubber treads throw themselves into muddy thaw. I passed a stone office building located in the middle of a bog. There it is, all alone, in the middle of a swamp. It was empty for a long time, finally bought by a company with a wave logo and hydraulics in the name.

I told Liz I wish that was my studio, a building floating in the middle of a cattail bog, floating on a swamp. But why do people build in Nature’s drainage system, the places she uses to purify her water? I swear, if there were not zoning laws, state and national parks, every single square inch of space would be covered in concrete, tar, brick and mortar. There would be no Snow Moon to stare up at on a February winter night. Yeah, we tried to take over the Moon, too. But there was no air, no water, no food.

Man, so limited in his ability to adapt to physical hardship, fights the elements, refuses to honor the past. I’ve gone off on a tangent now. I guess there is something to be said for a good rant once in a while. I could tell by my writing practice this morning that I was edgy and unforgiving. Mostly of myself. I come here to stare out the window, guilt-free, to work on my projects without flinching or running over to add water to the cat dish.

I remember Natalie saying, “You’ve got to get out of the house. It’s too distracting.” I guess if a home was big enough, you could create enough space, your own wing, off from the rest of the family. But I am so used to sharing space that isn’t really there. It appears and reappears, Poof!, out of thin air.

Like the eclipsed, disappearing Moon. Only to surface hours later, no worse for wear, revealing a few more of her secrets, in coded shades of red. Nature’s secrets, they keep the dark mysteries alive. And in the morning, more Sun.


-posted on red Ravine, Monday, February 25th, 2008

-related to posts, winter haiku trilogy and PRACTICE – Wolf Moon – 10min

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Snow Flying On Ice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Snow Flying On Ice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






thick lumbering lake
bristles at the crackling sound
snow flying on ice






Lake Ice Booming – 1min
Recorded by Audio Producer/Editor/Mixer, Curt Olson at Track Seventeen

More sounds of Winter at: The Sound of Snow and Ice – Various Artists at Gruenrekorder

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, February 24th, 2008

-related to post, haiku (one-a-day)

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Do You Let Yourself Read?, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Do You Let Yourself Read?, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I had a voicemail from one of my writing friends yesterday. She said she was frustrated because she wasn’t giving herself time to read. Last year, she had structured it in:  made a reading list, read the Classics over Summer, devoured books to feed the hunger — to be close to other writers.

This year, it was hard to give herself space.

I was relieved to get her call. I had the same thought process rushing through my head. I set aside one day a week (read — 5 hours) to work on my creative writing projects:  to map out chapters, daydream, doodle, jot down ideas; to transcribe recordings from last June for my memoir; to scribble thoughts, future writing topics — to stare out the window and daydream.

I’m listening to Anne Lamott’s Word By Word in the car, to and from work (books on tape (CD) are the greatest!). She says every writer, every creative person, needs time to just sit and stare out the window.

You have to slow down and create space in your life for ideas to surface. Staring out the window can be productive for a writer.

Last year I was religious about giving myself time. I had the structure of a year long Writing Intensive with Natalie Goldberg to guide me. She assigned books to us, great literature to read. I read so many good books over the last two years.

What’s going on now?



   Do You Let Yourself Read?, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Do You Let Yourself Read?, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Do You Let Yourself Read?, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Do You Let Yourself Read?, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Yesterday, during the 5 hours set aside for writing, I wouldn’t give myself the time. I tried staring out the window through the ash and oaks, listening to crows and the pretty pretty, pretty of cardinals, daydreaming about my projects. I felt guilty.

I thought of everything I had do around the house:  give Kiev fresh water in her dish, make the unraveled bed, go through upcoming bills, slip in a load of laundry. I played tennis with Mr. StripeyPants on the bed. I fiddled with my hair. I took a long, hot shower. Still — no reading, no writing.

(Monkey Mind anyone?)

It took me a while to figure it out. What I really wanted to be doing was reading. Writers need to read other writers. People who have gone through the distracted pain, unspent joy, and daily soul-searching required to write a book.

I’ve started reading three books over the last month. I’m in the middle of Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend From Far Away, Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street, and a book of Best American Essays – 1999. Not one of them have I finished.

Finally, late in the afternoon, I said, “Forget this!” (the language was not as kind), and settled in on the couch with Sinclair Lewis and Main Street. It felt so good to let myself read. I wandered the muddy streets of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, met Dr. Will Kennicott, and got lost in Carol Milford’s head.



Do you let yourself read?


  • WHAT:  What are you reading? And I’m not just talking about magazines, the New York Times, or MSN online. I’m talking books. Tell me what books you’re reading.
  • WHERE:  Where do you read? Propped up in bed, stretched out on the couch, in the tub, out on the porch swing?
  • WHEN:  When do you read — late at night, early in the morning?
  • HOW:  How do you read? Do you slow down and savor every word?
  • WHY:  Why do you like reading. What inspires you to pick up a book?


Reading is good for the Spirit. I come from a family of readers. My mother read a lot when we were growing up. When we didn’t know the answer to something, she encouraged us to head down the hallway and grab one of the black Collier’s encyclopedias from the corner bookcase.

Did your parents read to you when you were a child? Who taught you how to form words? It is not only writers who should read — everyone should pick up a good book.

If you’re reading, let’s talk books. Tell me the what, why, when, where, and how. If you’re not reading, tell me why. Why is it the last thing on your list?



    Writers' Hands VIII, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Writers' Hands VIII, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Writers' Hands VIII, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

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Shadows Of The Cattail, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Shadows Of The Cattail, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Robert Frost was an American poet who lived from March 26, 1874, to January 29, 1963. He was born in San Francisco, made his way to Massachusetts via Harvard, and finally settled in New Hampshire.

My 3rd grade English teacher, Mrs. Boykin, loved three poets:  Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Frost. She would recite their poetry to us while she slow walked past dusty slate boards, 6-pronged chalk holders with wire fingers, and a rattly, roll-down map of the world, circa 1963.

I became familiar with Frost’s poetry around the age of 9. But it wasn’t until adulthood that I became obsessed with learning about the geographical places that writers call Home.

The Robert Frost Farm in Derry was home to Robert Frost from 1900-1911. In October of 1900, he settled on the Derry farm in New Hampshire, just over the Massachusetts line, purchased for him by his grandfather. But from 1915 to 1920, it was The Frost Place, in Franconia, New Hampshire where he and his family lived full-time, and went on to spend nineteen summers.



Snowbound, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Snowbound, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Snowbound, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Frost received four Pulitzer Prizes, in 1924, 1931, 1937, and 1943. He lived a long life, and his poems are often recited and remembered by heart. The Road Not Taken, one of his most famous poems, was published in 1916 in his collection Mountain Interval.

But I was reminded of another Frost poem by amuirin from Stop & Wander, in her comment on Listening to Silence. It led me to go back and read Frost again, to revisit his life. So it is Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, published in 1923 in his New Hampshire volume, that I am choosing to post.

My favorite research find was a 1960 interview with Robert Frost by Richard Poirier in The Paris Review. The interview took place in Frost’s home in Cambridge, Massachusetts near the end of his life.

He was wearing plaid slippers and was seated in a blue overstuffed chair (with no arms) where he often sat to write. He never had a writing table, a desk, or a writing room. He wrote on a writing board, or the sole of his shoe.

That’s where Frost and I part ways. Though I often write in coffee shops on the back of a crumpled Post-It (just ask Liz how many pieces of paper she finds scattered all over the house), or in a pocket notebook at a sunken spot near the living room window — I still long for a writing room. A comfortable desk, floor to ceiling bookshelves to display my personal book collection, a room of my own.



The Walk Home, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Shadow Stepping, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Shades Of Blue, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Robert Frost wrote Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening in June, 1922 at his house in South Shaftsbury, Vermont (now home to the Robert Frost Stone House Museum). He lived in the Stone House from 1920 to 1929 (there is an excellent chronology with photographs at The Friends of Frost).

It is said that Frost had been up the entire night writing the long poem New Hampshire, and had finally finished when he realized morning had come. When he went out to view the sunrise, Stopping By Woods came to him like a hallucination.

I thought of Natalie’s chapter in Thunder and Lightning entitled Hallucinating Emeralds. Sometimes writing comes like that. You hear songwriters talk about flashes of inspiration, or dream sequences where whole songs write themselves, and the next morning flow magically from their pens.

My second favorite research find was an audio version of Robert Frost reciting, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. You can listen to it at Salon Audio – Robert Frost.  If you’ve been reading red Ravine, I guess you know by now, I’m a big fan of writers reading their work. I want to hear their voices.

Robert Frost is one of the classical poets — traditional enough to capture those who have been around awhile; detailed enough to lead us across that bend in the woods; wide enough that anyone can find a small opening. And if someone asked me to choose the Frost of our time, I might look no further than Ted Kooser.



Cattail Forest, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Cattail Forest, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening


Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

-Robert Frost, New Hampshire: A Poem with Notes and Grace Notes (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1923), p. 87. D-11 0397 Fisher Library.



Shadows Of The Cattail, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Shadows Of The Cattail, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Shadows Of The Cattail, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, February 21st, 2008

-related to post, Listening To Silence


-Additional links (as a result of more research after the post Comment thread):

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Printmaking (Raccoon), Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Printmaking (Raccoon), Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






inhaling the cold
raccoon paws melt into prints
fall between the cracks






            Ice Prints, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ice Prints, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ice Prints, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

-related to post, haiku (one-a-day)

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For anyone who lived in New Mexico in 2001, you will remember the “Madonna in a Bikini” controversy. Artist Alma Lopez depicted the Virgen de Guadalupe as a real woman wearing a bikini of flowers.

Many Catholics were offended, and even the Catholic Church protested, claiming that Lopez had turned the Holy Mother into “a tart.” Reactions were violent and hostile. Lopez received threats, and the image was later censored.

You can read Lopez’s words about “the Controversy” and how she responded to it. Clearly, this event shaped Lopez as an artist — perhaps as a person.

Artists and writers take risks all the time. They mix sexuality and religious iconography. They divulge family secrets. They make political statements.


Natalie Goldberg, in her rules of Writing Practice (paraphrased in red Ravine), tells us to Go for the jugular. In her book Wild Mind – Living The Writer’s Life, she describes it this way:

If something scary comes up, go for it. That’s where the energy is. Otherwise, you’ll spend all your time writing around whatever makes you nervous. It will probably be abstract, bland writing because you’re avoiding the truth. Hemingway said, ‘Write hard and clear about what hurts’. Don’t avoid it. It has all the energy. Don’t worry, no one ever died of it. You might cry or laugh, but not die.

Going for the jugular is one of the ways writers take risks — your version of Madonna in a bikini.


     



When I was in my mid-20s, living in Granada, Spain, I drew the most outrageous pictures. I look at them today — more than 20 years later — and I know what I was trying to say.

I took so many risks then. Moved to Spain alone with $6,000 and no plans to return. Dropped out of the local university, which provided at least some structure in my life. Sat in a small, hot room and drew. Drank wine. Got depressed. Wrote every day, not even knowing that what I wanted to do with the rest of my life was to write and make art.

Where is that person now? I want to hear from her.

I want you to hear from the bold person inside of you. Take a risk with your writing. Go for the jugular. Be controversial, if that’s what you have to be.

Set your timer for 15 minutes. At the top of your page, write this: I take a risk when I write about… Then go.

When you’re done, if you’ve only touched the surface of what it is that puts you out there, write about it again. And again and again.

Take a risk with your writing every day.



Penis Worship, unfinished pencil and color pencil drawing from ~1986,
Granada, Spain (updated recently with pen and ink), drawing
© 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.


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Old Friend From Far Away, Minneapolis, Minnesota,February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Old Friend From Far Away, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I bought Natalie Goldberg’s new book, Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir, on February 14th, Valentine’s Day. Actually, Liz bought it for me, the creative version of romance – a writer’s gift. We visited Common Good Books, an Independent bookstore in Saint Paul, between touring the Minnesota State Capitol (by day), and attending a Victorian Poetry Slam at the James J. Hill House on Summit Avenue (by night).

It was the first time I had been to Common Good Books, owned by one of Minnesota’s native sons (and the host of A Prairie Home Companion), Garrison Keillor. I went at the urging of a friend. I slid Natalie’s book off the shelf in excited anticipation. It was the last one they had in stock.

The book feels good in the hands. The paper is soft and textured, the front cover is inviting, and I can’t wait to dive in. I took some time off this weekend. Rested. Today begins a new week. Sometimes I need a little inspiration. I pick up a book.


      Old Friend, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Old Friend, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Old Friend, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Natalie talked about writing Old Friend from Far Away in the Writing Intensive in Taos last year. Sometimes she would show us the manuscript with the cross-outs and revisions. Other times she would read partially completed chapters to us. Twice, I saw her write new lines into a paragraph while she was sitting there. She said she was inspired by her students; the book is dedicated to them.

Studying with an author while they are actually writing a book is a rare gift. I learned so much from her sharing the process (both successes and mistakes). The next best thing is hearing the writer read her work. If you want to see Natalie read from her new book, maybe you can catch her on tour from February through April of this year.

If you are looking to learn more about Writing Practice and memories, pick up a copy for yourself. Spending the money to buy a writer’s book shows your support for the writer. You might also want to consider doing your shopping in an Independent bookstore near you. Yeah, it takes more effort than ordering online. And is sometimes more expensive. But it’s worth it.



Live Local, Read Large, St Paul, Minnesota,February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Live Local, Read Large, St Paul, Minnesota,February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Live Local, Read Large, St Paul, Minnesota,February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Here are a couple of reasons why:



ONE:

When I hit sunlight on the sidewalk, I felt that I had just been in another world, a place full and close to me. After that day, Centicore was mine. I lived in it.

Since then I have sought out bookstores in every town and city I pass through, the way someone else might search for old battle sites, gourmet food or sports bars. I consider the people working in bookstores my friends. If I’m lost, need a good restaurant or a cheap place to stay, I go to a bookstore, confident someone there will direct me.

If a town has no bookstore, I feel sad for the place. It doesn’t have that concentrated wealth of minds that includes twelfth-century Japan, a painter in Tahiti, traditional North American Indian pottery, memories of war, a touch of Paris and the Mississippi, a lament on love’s transiency and instruction on how to cook a good chicken stew. You can live in a small hamlet on the Nebraska plains and if there’s a bookstore, it’s like the great sun caught in one raisin or in the juicy flesh of a single peach.

A bookstore captures worlds — above, behind, below, under, forward, back. From that one spot the townspeople can radiate out beyond physical limit. A hammer and nails in the hardware store down the block, though fine and useful tools, can’t quite do the same job. Even an ice cream parlor — a definite advantage — does not alleviate the sorrow I feel for a town lacking a bookstore.


-Natalie Goldberg, from Thunder and Lightning; Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft, chapter excerpt, Smack! Into the Moment

TWO:

What Happened To Orr Books?  Bookstores across the country are closing every month. Buy Independent!


I know it’s not always possible to shop at an Independent bookstore. I confess, I buy my share of books online. Particularly if I am rushed for time, or am looking for obscure or out-of-print books. Many times, smaller bookstores don’t have the room to keep older books in stock.

And I found when I worked at a large bookstore chain, they, too, would often have to order older books online. In that case, I cut out the middle man and buy direct. But when I do shop online, I try to visit sites like Alibris: New, Used, Rare and Out-of-Print Books. Alibris supports Independent bookstores by uniting book sellers from all over the globe, and giving you the online alternative of patronizing an Independent.

However you shop, I hope you’ll get out to support Natalie on tour and purchase her new book, Old Friend from Far Away. And please come back and share any insights you’ve gained from reading about the practice of writing memoir. We’d love to hear them.



THREE:

Make that three good reasons!


Common Good Books, St Paul, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Common Good Books, Saint Paul, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Common Good Books
165 Western Avenue North
(downstairs in the Blair Building, beside Nina’s Coffee Cafe on Selby)
St Paul, Minnesota 55102

Store Hours:
Monday through Saturday – 10am to 10pm
Sunday – 10am to 8pm

Contact:
Phone: 651-225-8989
CommonGoodBooks.com



Old Friend, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Old Friend, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Old Friend, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Monday, February 18th, 2008

-related to post, Natalie Goldberg — 2000 Years Of Watching The Mind, Beginner’s Mind, More About The Monkey

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Sonia Wise Eyes, Sonia adjusting to her new home, February 11, 2008, all photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.


  1. Her full name is Sonia.
  2. She came to us via a friend who loved her but couldn’t keep her; the friend’s father was dying.
  3. Sony is 10 months old.
  4. She doesn’t come when you call her. She forces you to run after her, and then it becomes a game of Catch Sony.
  5. She snorts and snores. I never thought snorting and snoring could be cute, but it is when she does it!
  6. She has transformed us into small dog folk. We never thought we’d own a small dog. We’ve always had big dogs.
  7. She’s a lap dog. She was bred to be a lap dog.
  8. She’s well-mannered. Sleeps in her bed and doesn’t get up until we get up.
  9. Hardy for a small dog. She once hiked eight miles.
  10. She’s hilarious. Loves to make us laugh.


The only thing we know about pugs is what we’ve learned in one week through on-the-job training. We never expected to own a pug but now that we do, we love being pug parents.




So, for any pug people out there, what should we expect? Is every pug destined to be the size of a small Sumo wrestler? Will Sonia ever come to us when we call her?




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Circles On Circles, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Circles On Circles, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






the pond from the house
shadows of living trees, ice
circles on circles





-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, February 16th, 2008

-related to post, haiku (one-a-day) and WRITING TOPIC – CIRCLES

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The last feather I saw was a curved downy fluff next to Mr. StripeyPants on the bed. The two comforters are filled with the down of the goose. One is cinnamon, new and soft and fresh. The other, faded pink, old and wearing thin. We have patched the mauve one several times. But alas, there is another tiny hole somewhere. And once in a while, we see a feather or two dropped on carpet, or stuck in the thread of the flannel sheets.

I don’t have my feathers out since I moved in with Liz. With 3 cats, it’s impossible. They love to grab them between their teeth, carry them around like a mouse, shake their heads, munch a little, and drop them near their food bowls. I used to have a circle of feathers on my altar in my old apartment. I would fill a blue glass antique bottle with sand I collected from the Atlantic or Pacific, and push the hollow tips of the feathers down into sand crystals, making a semi-circle of color.

I have found owl feathers before on walks through the woods. The 2 prize feathers are Bald Eagle, given to me by an explorer friend who kayaked in the Northwestern corner of Washington State. One is white, a tail feather. I had never seen one that close before she gifted me with it. She had gotten permission from one of the Native American tribes she was visiting to pick a few up from the forest floor. She said she saw hundreds of eagles flying the area on that kayak trip.

I keep thinking of the feathers flying from the mouth of the hawk in the Galway Kinnell poem when the hawk eats the jay. And I remember one of our readers talking about seeing the actual act, hawk devouring jay, last month on a walk through the city. The closest I have come to seeing a bird of prey hunt, is an osprey on the finger of Long Lake up in the Boundary Waters. I was on a week canoe trip and my two friends had gone off hiking for the day. I stayed behind on a gravel bar beach, slipped my journal out of the waterproof covering, and wrote.

I looked up from a line to see an osprey dive under the water like a rocket, and shoot back up to the sky with a fish in her talons. I will never forget that sight. What comes naturally to her is my treasure. I watched her on the lake for what must have been 30 minutes. Then she flew off into the distance. I didn’t see her again. Some days I long for the solitude of a trip like that, to be away from civilization as we know it, on bodies of water or untrampled earth. Something about the water though, and there is a lot of it here.

Water. Fluid. And in Winter, firm.

It’s warmer this morning, rising 6 degrees since I arose from sleep. It’s supposed to reach above freezing. Then drop again later in the week. I don’t see as many feathers in Winter as I do in the Fall and Spring. Summer is best for feather hunting.

The coolest feathers I have ever seen are from the Great Grey Owls that dropped from Canada to the area around Duluth a few years ago. Liz and I drove up (along with hundreds of other birders) just to get a glimpse of the wide-faced raptors. We must have seen 30 – 40 of them that weekend, perched in elms and birch, swooping low to the ground, the way they hunt, and, sadly, one deceased in the middle of the road.

It was still warm, had been hit by a pick-up truck minutes before. We stopped to offer prayers, and a closer look at her wings, talons, and feathers. We’ll never be that close to a Great Grey again.

I read later that the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota had a ton of calls about Great Greys that year. They had been hit by cars when they were hunting low across country roads. And then, just as quickly, they were gone. Back to Canada. I don’t think they’ve ever traveled this far South again.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, February 16th, 2008

-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – LIGHT AS A FEATHER

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The last time I saw a feather was a few hours ago. I pulled into the driveway after running an errand, and I noticed two turkey feathers stuck into the edge of a foamcore poster board advertising LIVE HERITAGE TURKEYS FOR SALE. All caps. 

Turkey feathers are big and plain, at least these ones are. I like that about them. No flash, just simplicity.

Jim find feathers everywhere. I ask him while he’s eating fruit salad for lunch, What do you know about feathers? He walks to the bookshelf and pulls down the Sibling Guide to Birds book he and the girls got me for Mother’s Day last year.

Well, he says, there are all kinds of feathers. Body feathers and head feathers. Feathers from the nape of the neck.

I ask him if he liked feathers when he was a boy. Not any more than the average kid, he tells me.

Our girls love feathers. They get a new peacock feather every other Sunday or so when it’s Growers Market season. Fifty cents each, although sometimes Mr. and Mrs. Johnston give the girls a feather each for free.

I once found a tiny pale orange feather, perfectly formed. It stood out against the gray gravel in the driveway, and for weeks I kept it in my car in the well between the bucket seats. I twirled it between my fingers while waiting in the drive-thru at the pharamacy or the parent pick-up line at school.

I now know that the feathers in the outermost tip of the wing are called Primaries. Or are they Secondaries?

There are tail feathers and rump feathers. Jim mentions Scapulars, and when I look at him for clarification, he says, Shoulder, scapula…you know, just remember, I-broke-my-scapula.

I think of football players and their shoulder pads and the playing fields we walked across at Valley High School in the days before any of us had our drivers licenses. So green and manicured, those fields.

I don’t recall ever seeing a feather on that carpet, but I do remember my best friend’s older sister’s collection of feathers. She kept them on a nightstand near her reel-to-reel. We snuck into her bedroom and snagged a few, braided leather to the quill and wore them in our hair or made roach clips out of them.

One of the first feathers I ever saw was the light gray of the guinea hen, distinguishable by its many white dots. I picked up handfuls in Grandma’s yard one afternoon, walked in through the kitchen. Mom and Grandma sat at the table smoking cigarettes and when they saw what was in my hands, they both yelled, Get those dirty things out of here, NOW!


-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – LIGHT AS A FEATHER

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Valentine’s Day is almost over.

I meant to say how much I love the simple act of acknowledging the day.

I meant to talk about how it seems that when we were little, the cards we gave to our classmates were so much bigger than the cards my girls bring home today. How much I loved coming home with my white paper sack decorated with red construction paper hearts and glitter. How I sat on my bed, emptied the sack, pored through the valentines.

In my family we’ve started making our cards. For days the girls sit at the kitchen table and make valentines after school. Em crosses off the names on her classmate list that her teacher sends home with each kid.

This morning the first thing I heard from both my girls was, Mom, did you make our cards yet?

I made them each a card with a red valentine doily and pink cut-out hearts on construction-paper springs. Jim We all got chocolate-dipped strawberries.

I think it’s silly that Valentine’s Day should be about couples. I heard someone on the radio this morning say that on Saint Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish, but on Saint Valentine’s Day, everyone can’t be a couple.

Valentine’s Day can be about a cut-out heart pasted onto a piece of paper. Making a phone call. Smiling, showing some love. To yourself, even.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Good night.

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Valentine Primroses, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Valentine Primroses, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






red primrose surprise
fluffy white valentine hearts
fall from the gray sky





-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, February 14th, 2008

-related to post, haiku (one-a-day)

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