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Archive for November, 2009

By Buzz
for Rich, September 23, 2009








Hoops



Pass the ball Kansas
bend it low
like wind
hoops wheat

twin soles thrash old grain
splash window see the floor
cold ash burns with pain
twist sap from maple core

pour-sugar-brown syrup down
cough up crack in tree
shinny-slick draw-and-kick
school those milk-fed feet

don’t bubbachuck that shot
jack-brick hoes shuck corn
shoot silk breeze smooth round knees
rim-blown dust bowl storm

plain people use the back-door
farmers sense the rain
screen spills from its spline
but still the spine remains

drive faded Chevy off the blocks
pick-and-roll crash paint
sweat cuts thick in thin socks
gnashed gears slash years change lanes

lace sneaks between hard lumber
post sets wing on high
stolen prayer banks on glass
no free throws paid in life

juke the movie cowboy
look inside for dimes
slip time’s string past tin ring
thread the needle through the pine

score your game in limestone
spin leather seam from rock
drop it soft as chalk Jayhawk
echoes dribble out our clock




Chevrolet, photo © 2009 by Linda Lupowitz. All
rights reserved.




Shoes Homework, drawing © 2009 by Max Lupowitz.
All rights reserved.





Buzz is a healer, husband, father, and friend, etching ethers in New Mexico’s Rio Grande Valley since 1979. He wrote this poem in the fall of 2009, as a birthday gift to his good friend and fellow basketball player Rich Jamison. Buzz had this to say about the poem: Rich asked me to write a poem for his birthday. The poem is about basketball, which we both share a love for. It’s about the pass, not the shot. While the shot carries the glory, the pass, or the assist (“dime”) gives the game its rhythm. So it’s also a metaphor for healing, where the practitioner assists, steps back in the shadows, and allows life to flow.

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Question Mark, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


A few weeks ago, I watched an interview on Bill Moyers Journal and was mesmerized by the work of Anna Deavere Smith. It is tough work. She takes on controversial subjects most would not touch in our sanitized, politically correct language of the day. Her 1992 one-woman performance Fires in the Mirror explored the violence between Jews and Blacks after an August 1991 civic disturbance in the New York neighborhood of Crown Heights in Brooklyn. Her solo performance in Twilight: Los Angeles dramatized the 1992 riots that broke out in L.A. following the first Rodney King trial.

For her current one-woman play Let Me Down Easy, Anna Deavere Smith interviewed Americans from all walks of life about healthcare, medical, and end of life issues. After 9 years and 300 plus interviews, she chose 20 people; through their words, body language and speech, she transforms on stage into each one. I’ve only seen snippets of her 90 minute performance on TV. And from bullrider to politician to Buddhist monk, I could hear the voice of all America inserted into the healthcare debate, leaving little room for doubt — something has to change.

We are trying to bring disparate worlds together, not so that we can all get along, but so we can see out of the ‘me’ into ‘us.’

– Anna Deavere Smith

__________________________________________


Highlights


Below are few notes I jotted down while listening to her conversation with Bill Moyers. A few may seem cryptic, but will make more sense when you watch the interview:

  • The title Let Me Down Easy came to her almost out of a dream. There are two songs with the name. Of the title, James H. Cone of the Union Theological Seminary said they are the words of a broken heart and can be interpreted as broken love. “Don’t do it harshly. Not too mean. Let it be easy.”
  • Let Me Down Easy is a call about grace and kindness in a world that lacks that often —  in a winner take all world.
  • Death is the ultimate form of loss, the ultimate form of abandonment
  • It broke her heart to know that we, with all of our money and technology, believe that we can afford to leave people so alone
  • Are we afraid of being poor, afraid of losing, afraid of being sick? Is that why we distance ourselves from that reality all around us?
  • She chose these 20 particular people because they are very connected to the life cycle – death and life
  • The most important thing you can do is be with someone when they die
  • Art comes in when the official language falls apart. When things fall apart, you can see more and you can even be part of indicating new ways that things can be put together.


What seems to be important to Anna Deavere Smith is the art of listening. And letting what she hears soak into each cell of her body. Words matter. People matter. She believes something she learned from her grandfather (who was also the inspiration for her method of theater) — if you say a word often enough, it becomes you. In a New York Times article Through 1 Woman, 20 Views of Life’s End she says, “I try to embody America by embodying its words.”

Near the end of the interview, Bill Moyers asked, “When did you begin to listen to people so acutely?” Anna said when she was young, she lived next to a woman who weighed 400 pounds. The neighbor would ask her to go to the store to buy her fatback and she’d love to sit on her porch and listen to her stories —  that’s when she started really listening.

__________________________________________


Writing Topic — 3 Questions


How do we teach ourselves to listen? How do we get people to talk about what has meaning for them, moving beyond repetition or sound bites? In Anna’s words, “I say their words over and over. I listen and I wear the words.”

She said she also taught herself to listen by breaking up certain rhythmic speech patterns. She met a linguist at a cocktail party in 1979 who said she would give her 3 questions that were guaranteed to break the patterns and change the way people are expressing themselves:

Have you ever come close to death?

Have you ever been accused of something you didn’t do?

Do you know the circumstances of your birth?


And that’s the inspiration for this Writing Topic — 3 Questions.

Choose one of the 3 questions above. Write it down at the top of your paper. Take out a fast writing pen and do a timed 15 minute Writing Practice.

Maybe 3 questions, combined with the wild mind of Writing Practice, will break patterns in our writing and lead us to listen more closely to our own voices.

__________________________________________


Epilogue


Anna Deavere Smith is on fire. In pursuit of her mission to translate art into social commentary about race, poverty, and injustice, she’s won two Obie Awards, been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and two Tonys, and is a recipient of the prized MacArthur fellowship. (Not to mention her role in NBC’s The West Wing, as National Security Advisor Nancy McNally.) You can read more about Anna Deavere Smith at Bill Moyers Journal. Or watch the full interview with Anna Deavere Smith and Bill Moyers at this link.

In November, the Moth Storytelling Awards in New York honored her as their 2009 recipient at the Annual Moth Ball. The Wall Street Journal blog Speakeasy covered the event which was also attended by writer Garrison Keillor. On the subject of healthcare, the blog references a compelling verbal account from Keillor that night about his stroke in September. He had the stroke while on a massage table, eventually drove himself to the ER, and waited 15 minutes in line before he was able to tell anyone he was having a stroke. Read the full story at Speakeasy: Jonathan Ames, Garrison Keillor and Anna Deavere Smith Headline Annual Moth Ball.


In some ways the most effective politicians are the ones who have the best verbal clothes that they manipulate the best way. And there is a gap between that type of clothing and where people walk and where people live.

Whitman was doing another kind of work for the country at that time. Speaking a different song. And I think the politicians can sing to us but I respect, in a way, the limitation of their language. I mean I guess it’s a part of our culture that goes back as far as Jefferson, that they have to be so careful about what they say. My only desire would then be that we would find other places in our culture to work out our differences.

– Anna Deavere Smith from Bill Moyers Journal, November 2009


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, November 29th, 2009

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Berth Of The Night Owl, outside Mickey’s Diner, St. Paul, Minnesota, November 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.







drenched beads of lens sweat
black fog that spawns crusty rain
berth of the night owl







Sometimes the best shots are unplanned. A few weeks ago, Liz and I drove through St. Paul after going to see a music performance of Strange Attractors. It was almost midnight, rainy and foggy. We parked at different spots downtown and took a series of photographs. She stepped out into the rain; I stayed behind and shot from the car. I feel lucky my partner is one who loves the night (and art) as much as I do. It provides opportunities for creative sharing that might not otherwise take place. And we can spend downtime together in our art studio in Northeast Minneapolis.

The best part of this rainy shot of Mickey’s Diner through the windshield is the BlackBerry sitting on the dash. When the photo is viewed in its largest size, you can clearly see the raindrop reflections on the screen. They make it look like the rain fell through the glass. This time the photograph was not taken with the camera phone; she’s one of the stars.


Other Night Owl posts from over the years:



-posted on red Ravine, Friday, November 27th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), WRITING TOPIC — WINDOW

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The Turkey Who Lived, the story of Azul as told by the girl who loved her most,
© 2004-2009 by Dee. All rights reserved.




She was a blue so light she was almost gray. Jim got her at Miller Feed Shop in Albuquerque’s north valley after first buying and then losing a white baby turkey to a hawk. That turkey, we were later told, would have eventually grown so big that its weight would have broken its legs.

But Azul was a lean heritage turkey. She was made to roam fields. And roam she did. She had an easy relationship with our dogs, who seemed to know that she was as much a part of the family as they were. And she was docile with the girls, which put me at ease. A man I once worked with told me that you should never have turkeys around small children, as the turkeys would see the kids’ shiny eyes and peck them out.

Azul became famous ’round these parts. We lived within walking distance to the elementary school, and my daughters’ teachers regularly took their classes on field trips to our house. Twenty or so excited kids would stand at the fence around the bird pen to see Azul and the other turkeys, along with our chickens and Roosevelt the duck. We even had two bunnies, Diamond-in-the-Rough and Snowball, which if we could catch (they burrowed tunnels from the pen out to the yard) we’d let the students pet.

But Azul’s fame derived mostly because she survived an attack so severe that her innards were exposed. She had flown into the neighbors’ yard, not knowing that their dogs were unfriendly. Immediately a Bassett Hound and German Shepherd cornered and jumped her. The daughter was inside alone but had the wherewithal to call the police. She then went outside and chased the dogs away from Azul until Animal Control arrived and took the wounded turkey to the village offices.

Normally, with injuries that grave, Azul would have been put to sleep. But when the mayor of the village saw our daughter, who with Jim had pulled in seconds behind Animal Control, crying her eyes out when she saw how gory Azul looked, the mayor ordered Frosty, the head dog catcher, to rush the turkey to a local veterinarian. This mayor, who was also a sometimes-actor in Western films, then told Jim that the village would pick up the cost.

Lo and behold, Azul pulled through. She went on to live a relatively long life, giving birth to and raising three or four poults, a combined 20 to 30 turkeys.

Just a couple of weeks ago, however, Azul went missing. We looked high and low for her. She was always the leader of her flock, until this past year. We were down to four turkeys, one being Azul. The two males had plucked out large patches of her feathers. We let her stay outside the pen, being as how she roosted high in the trees to sleep.

One night we heard a commotion and chased off whatever it was that had come around. The next day Azul was gone. There were no feathers, no sign that she’d been taken or hurt. We searched for her for several days, thinking she might have laid eggs underneath brush and was hidden, safe and sound.

We still like to think she just flew high up into the trees where we can’t see her. But she was old for a turkey, and in our hearts we know that she’s gone for good.

Here is the story that Dee wrote about Azul back in 2004, just a few weeks after Azul was attacked by the dogs. Dee was 8 years old, and Azul was just over a year. I’ve corrected typos for ease of reading.



The Turkey Who Lived



One fall day, my dad, M., and me were shopping at K-Mart. We got a lot of stuff. Finally we were headed for home. When we turned on Mockingbird Lane, we saw the Animal Control leaving the road. My dad had a feeling something was wrong!

When we pulled up at our green gate, my dad saw a note left from the Animal Control which read “Your turkey has been attacked by some dogs next door. Sincerely, Frosty.”

My dad told us and I cried, but then I said, “I’ll kill those dogs!”

We met up with them [Animal Control] just in time. Before my dad got out of the car, he said Azul might be dead or dying. While my dad talked I could not tell if Azul was dead or alive, so I got out of the van and went to my turkey and cried when I saw her.

“We will put her to sleep,” the man said. “No!” the mayor said, “you will take her to the vet.”

So they did. The vet stitched her up. We had to put red medicine on her for a week. Now she is better, as if it never happened.





In Memoriam



azul azul and baby in fall

fall humps goodbye azul





Azul and her flock on red Ravine







Postscript: Even though she’s no longer with our flock, we are grateful this Thanksgiving holiday for having had Azul in our lives. She taught us that turkeys were not just some dumb bird you eat once a year. They’re regal and sociable. They’re funny, and most of all, they’re tough.

We’re also thankful today for our family (including the furry, feathered, and scaly), friends, our readers, for nature, writing, art, and all that inspires us.

Happy Thanksgiving, QM and Liz, and both your families!

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Georgia Pine Over My Grandmother’s Grave, BlackBerry Shots, Augusta, Georgia, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






visiting Estelle
gravestones outlast the living
markers for the dead


all that’s left behind
a letter, a horseshoe ring
lasting love and luck


face of a pine tree
warm thoughts of the Grandmothers
hover over me







It’s the time of year when I think often of family and loved ones, living and dead. One of the highlights of my October trip to Georgia was visiting my Grandmother Estelle’s grave for the first time. I did not know her well, had not seen her since I was 2 years old. I knew none of my blood father’s family. It was synchronicity when in 2007 my paternal aunts ended up in the insurance office of my maternal uncle and asked the question, “Are you related to….?”

It happened to be two weeks before Mom and I were scheduled to travel to Georgia. After 50 years apart, the question’s answer led them to me.

It turns out, my paternal grandparents are buried down the hill from my maternal grandparents in the same cemetery. I’ve been visiting the cemetery with my mother for years and never knew. These photographs are of the pine tree that grows high over their graves. My Aunt Annette told me that my grandfather loved pine trees. So do I. When I was a child, I would spend hours sweeping pine needles, the scaly bough of a branch curving to make just the right shape, a prairie-style home.

The thing about cemetery trees is that they are many times old growth trees, never to be cut. I like to think this pine is a guardian for my grandparents, its long roots extending deep underground, branches tall and proud (reminds me of another pine in New Mexico that I’m quite fond of, the Lawrence Tree).

There is more to the story — a letter, an obituary, a ring. Perhaps another post. This week I give thanks for all who live, and those who have come before.


Skin Of A Pine Tree, Pine Trunk In The Graveyard, My Grandmother’s Grave, Cemetery Pine, BlackBerry Shots, Augusta, Georgia, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Post Script: the day Mom and I met my aunt at the cemetery, we also visited the Gertrude Herbert Memorial Institute of Art in Augusta. That’s where my Canon G6 battery died; I had forgotten to charge the backup battery. These photos are all taken with the BlackBerry cell phone camera.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

-related to post: haiku 2 (one-a-day)

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Liz Really Liked It!, BlackBerry Shots, vintage recipe card, November 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

It’s almost Thanksgiving, a time of gratitude for our many blessings. And a time for good food. I walked over to the fridge this morning and under a Morton Salt “When it rains it pours” magnet was this faded recipe card for Chicken L’Orange. Liz’s mother (oliverowl) mailed it to us after a discussion on Memories, Writing & Family Recipes.

She told us that Liz’s maternal grandmother, Frances Oliver Biggs, loved that Liz liked the Chicken L’Orange. So much so, that she handwrote her comment on the back of the family recipe card she sent to Liz’s mom:

Does Liz remember the recipe for “Chicken L’Orange” that her Nana sent me? I still have the card in my recipe box. At the end is her comment, “Liz really liked it!” (Sent after Liz’s visit to CA.) It is probably similar to what you had on the Cornish game hens.

My contribution to yesterday’s meal was Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad (OLD family recipe) and a Cranberry Sauce that had orange juice and a whole jar of Orange Marmalade cooked with the fresh berries!

Now the recipe card with Liz’s grandmother’s handwriting hangs on our fridge. I told Liz I want to try Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad this year. It reminds me of my family’s version of Jell-O salad with whipped cream. Below is the recipe that Liz’s mom Marylin dropped into the red Ravine comments.

__________________________________________

 
 

Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad

 
 

1 large box of Lime Jell-O
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1 14-15 oz. can crushed pineapple, including juice

 
 

Take the cream cheese out of the fridge, so it begins to soften. Prepare the Jell-O, using 1 less cup of water than the recipe calls for. Chill it until it begins to thicken, but don’t let it solidify, or you’ll have a mess!

Since I only have one mixer, I whip the cream and place it in a small bowl. Then I cut the cream cheese in small chunks and place them in the mixer bowl and beat it well. When the Jell-O is a thick syrupy consistency, I add it to the cream cheese and mix until they are homogenized! (You’ll have to scrape down the sides of the bowl several times.) Next, the pineapple is mixed in and then the whipped cream, both at the slowest speed. Refrigerate until firm. Enjoy!

_____________________________________

 
 

We’re going to stop at the store today for last minute ingredients. What traditional recipes will you be sharing this Thanksgiving week? Are there any that have been passed down by your grandmother? Bob mentioned he’s making Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters. ybonesy’s family always makes tamales for Christmas. And my family makes Southern Banana Pudding for almost every family gathering. Old recipes are invaluable to memoir writers. Family flavor.

Hope you enjoy Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad. And if you put together the two front and back photos of the recipe card in this post, you’ll have the Biggs family recipe for Chicken L’Orange — two great family recipes, one post. And any leftover turkey? Try Amelia’s Soft Dumpling Recipe.

 
 

Chicken L’Orange, When It Rains, It Pours,  BlackBerry Shots, vintage recipe card, November 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

Post Script: The Morton Salt girl has always been a favorite icon of mine. She’s officially called the Morton Umbrella Girl and according to the Morton website, the slogan, “When it rains it pours” first appeared on the blue package of table salt and in a series of Good Housekeeping magazine advertisements in 1914. The slogan is adapted from an old proverb, “It never rains but it pours.”

You can read more about the history of Morton Salt, view vintage ads, and see the transition of the Morton Umbrella Girl from the roaring twenties to the 1968 image that we still view on packaging today. They’ve also got a recipe section with Winning Kosher Salt Recipes.

 

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

-related to post: Reflections On The Other National Bird*

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Moms are the best
to hug and to nestle
My mama’s bad ass
She can arm wrestle







Bobbi goes up against MOM...

Bobbi versus Mom, in the First Annual Arm Wrestling Holiday Championship, December 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





...and the winner is MOM!

And the winner is Mom!, photo © 2008-2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





The holidays are just around the corner. We have tamales to make (after Thanksgiving) and biceps to beef up. Last year Mom beat at least five of us—my two daughters, myself, Dad, and my sister Bobbi—in a jolly game of arm wrestling. Mom is 83. (Did I mention she’s bad ass?)

What’s on your list of things to do before the holidays? And, what family traditions are you most looking forward to?

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I have guided my two daughters—starting at about age nine—through Writing Practice. In both cases, my girls had graduated from chapter books to Harry Potter. Each was at the time steeped in weekly exercises for spelling, capitalization, punctuation. Each was heading into the season of independent school admissions, which would include a writing test. And each daughter wanted to spend time with me.

So I pulled them into something that was precious in my life. We whipped out our notebooks and fast-writing pens, grabbed a topic from thin air, set the timer, and wrote. And when the timer went off, we read our writing out loud.
 
I learned a lot about the mechanics of writing in elementary and secondary school. Mrs. Salisbury got me hooked on spelling bees. Mrs. Fiske, who wore her ginger-colored hair in a tight flip, walked us through the ins and outs of the paragraph. Mrs. Rhodes cried in class—overcome by the beauty of imagination—while reading The Hobbit out loud to us. But somehow I managed to get through twelve years without knowing how to simply compose.

And so it only seemed right that what took me until my late 30s/early 40s to figure out, thanks to the help of Natalie Goldberg and Writing Down the Bones, should become an early and natural skill for my girls. Like riding a bike or swimming.
 
 
 
How it works
 
 

  1. Start with three of the basic rules of Writing Practice–Keep your hand moving; Don’t cross out; Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar. These three are tangible. Any kid can understand them. In fact, they will be music to a child’s ear. I don’t cover the other three rules of Writing Practice, which are: Lose control; Don’t think; Go for the jugular. These ones are, in my opinion, meant for us adults, who try to be in control at all times, analyze our way through most everything, and are inhibited. Kids don’t need to be told to lose control. (By the way, I also have never had to say, “You’re free to write the worst shit in America,” as Natalie does. Children don’t seem to worry about lousy writing at this age, even though they already tend to denigrate their art ability. My theory is that they never write in school; thus, they have no basis of comparison. Not so with art.)
  2.  

  3. Pick a topic that is easy to understand. It should be tangible, something like “Pickles” or “Socks.” The other day, I figured my youngest and I could use a recent topic from this blog, so I threw it out for consideration: I write because… “What does that mean?” my daughter asked. After trying a few times to explain how each of us might choose to write for different reasons, I went with something simpler. Apparently, she’s not in a place of needing to understand why she writes; she writes for the sake of writing.
  4.  

  5. Start with five minutes and work your way up. This was a precaution I took thinking that my daughters might get bored after five minutes, plus it was a gentle start to a new concept. However, we quickly worked our way to ten-minute stints.
  6. When it comes time to read out loud, remind your child that we’re going to each listen to one another with full attention, otherwise you might find her scanning her page. Also, the first time we read, I took the lead. Again, that was probably an unnecessary precaution, as neither daughter hesitated to jump in when after subsequent topics I asked if they wanted to read first.
  7. Do Writing Practice with one kid at a time, at least to start. This is one-on-one time. Having someone else there—even a sibling—might change the dynamic. There will be no trying to impress, no worrying about someone being better. Moms are safe. Plus, it’s an easy way to bond.
  8. When your kid questions the part about Spelling—and, believe me, she will—tell her that she’ll continue to learn how to spell in school and by reading books, but that this practice is mainly for learning how to write, write, write. Spelling is important, but spelling will come in its own time.
  9. Be aware that your own writing might go in almost any direction if you, too, are following the rules of Writing Practice. I try not to temper my writing, and consequently I have written my politics and at times my petty minutiae. You can always pass on reading, but doing so might send the message that not reading is an easy out.
  10. Get your kid her own notebook and fast-writing pen, and encourage her to write on her own in this same way whenever she feels like it. Kids this age know what it means to practice, perhaps for sports or music, so instill the idea while it makes sense. And when she comes ’round and suggests, “Mom, can we do Writing Practice now?” be ready to pull out your notebook and see Beginner’s Mind in action.




_____________________________



Here are the Writing Practices (spelling errors corrected) that my youngest daughter and I did two weekends ago. Our topic was “Fall,” and we wrote for ten minutes.



Hers

Fall is when the leaves all fall to the ground. I like to jump into big piles of leaves. When the leaves start falling they change colors and they also crunch under your feet. Why is fall called fall? Maybe because leaves are falling. Another word for fall is autumn so I’m not sure why it’s called fall or autumn. The names have nothing in common. I also like sitting and watching the leaves fall off the trees. Sometimes all the leaves are a pain when you need to clean them up out of the pond and off the porch. Sonia likes fall I think because she has an excuse to stay inside. Otis and Rafie like to be inside too so they are happy when fall and winter come around. We have a lot of leaves to rake up so I’m happy because I want to jump in a big pile.




Mine

The trees outside the window make sure I know it is fall. They reach out over the window, and the sun shines behind them, shining through them, like light in a stained glass window. The colors are luminous, yellow shades and fading green shades. Even the dead tan leaves are beautiful, dangling in sparkling sunlight before letting go.

This morning I dress in a teal turtleneck sweater that I’ve had for ages, it seems. It’s too short from too many dryings, and it doesn’t keep my belly warm. Still, I head out to the corral with purpose, first holding my arms tight to try to keep the cold from hitting my core. But then I open up, drop my arms and swing them by my sides, in a sort of angry woman march. Except I’m not angry. I’m exuberant. It is cool but not cold. It’s early and the fall air feels new and fresh and good for me.

Dooley is waiting for me at the back gate. It’s a long walk down the service road, and the path is covered with leaves that have fallen from the trees that stretch like canopy over the path. Dooley is hungry for apples and grass and liberation. He will give a neigh and kick and run in a controlled run of his when I let him out.

I think all creatures must love fall. It is the best of times. The sun rises early now that we’ve set back the clocks, and even though it sets early, too, that feels right. Like it’s only natural that we would settle into our cozy homes, stews bubbling on the stove or a chicken roasting in the oven, and wait until it’s time to go to sleep.

Fall is also a time to prepare for the cold of winter. It’s a time to become more productive, less distracted by the never-ending light of summer. Yesterday I worked on my paintings for hours. I am finally becoming satisfied with Bush. He looks more real, red face and all, than he’d looked before. His eyes are scary, as you’d expect the eyes of someone like him to be. And his face has those plains to it that they have, a sharp face, pointy nose, pointy ears, straight lines for a mouth. He is an ugly man, as is Cheney and now Rove. Why is it that our lives get placed in the hands of such ugly men?

 

___________________________________________________________________


Postscript: It is natural that parents want to guide our children, and usually in a more heavy-handed way than we might guide our friends or adult family members. When doing Writing Practice with your child, refrain from critiquing what she writes. Writing Practice is raw; it is not a final product. There is no good, no bad. It is what it is.

If you’d like to give your child feedback, use recall to do so. After she reads, recall a phrase or section of her writing, letting her know that those parts stood out to you. Try to do so without assigning value, such as, “I loved the part about …” If you can show your child how to provide input without labeling the input, you’ll also be role modeling how to listen deeply. It’s a wonderful skill to have.

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Gothic Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

ONE: Crystallization, Stage 9 of The Great Round, creates the opening in which seeds planted in earlier stages bloom into full flowers. The first mandala alludes to the rose windows in Gothic cathedrals, designs that continually pull the gaze back to the center.  

Medium: Crayola markers, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, and Rainbow Magic pens that erase and change color

 
 
 
 

Rule Of 8’s, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

TWO: The underlying structure of this Stage 9 mandala is based on the number 8 which imparts order to the complex design (when you begin this mandala, give yourself plenty of time for the details). Derived from a Turkish design, it communicates the Islamic belief that all is held within the One, or Allah. 

Medium: Crayola markers, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, and Reeves Water Colour Pencils

 
 
 
 

Sri Yantra, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

THREE: In this mandala based on the Sri Yantra, a sacred Hindu design used for meditation, the single downward-pointing triangle in the center is a symbol of divine feminine energy, the source of all creation. Expanding outward from the center, upward-and-downward-pointing triangles signify all male and female creatures coming into being. Lotus petals enclose the field of emanation; lines that represent the 4 directions, the 4 elements, and other ordering principles border the whole. 

Medium: Crayola markers, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, and Reeves Water Colour Pencils

 
 
 
 

Rule Of 6’s, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

FOUR: The overall pattern of this mandala is based on a Hindu design signifying creation. Based on the number 6, the interplay of lines brings one circle after another dancing into view.   

Medium: Colored exclusively with Rainbow Magic pens that erase and change color, experimenting with color subtraction and complements

 
 
 
 

September Mandalas — Stage 9 -Crystallization
 
 
When you reach Stage 9 of The Great Round, it is time to pause and take a moment to stop and smell the roses. The Crystallization of Stage 9 is a time of fulfillment, satisfaction, and completion. It is opened by the adult experience of finishing a project or fulfilling an important commitment (such as raising a family) which creates a natural pause to experience delight and joy in what you have accomplished.

These mandalas are from the 9th month of a year-long mandala practice that began with the post Coloring Mandalas. Early in 2008, I made the decision to follow the twelve passages of Joan Kellogg’s The Great Round. According to Susanne F. Fincher, the healing benefits of The Great Round: Stage 9 – Crystallization are:
 
 

  • a slowing of creative activity followed by a sense of balance and relaxed enjoyment
  • completing tasks and finding deep satisfaction in what you have accomplished
  • scattered puzzle pieces come together in harmony; seeds planted come to full bloom
  • seeing through appearances to grasp fundamental structures of reality
  • reviewing each facet of what you have created, you survey your labor of love, and conclude “this is good”

 
 

In later cycles, Crystallization is a time when you achieve mastery of a spiritual practice. It’s a sweet time, a moment of joy. I think that’s why many of the mandalas in Suzanne F. Fincher’s Coloring Mandalas 2 are based on the Crystallization phase. I was going to do another elaborate essay about color systems at the end of this post. But it’s been over a year since I posted Stage 8, Functioning Ego — August Mandalas (Goethe & Color) (my apologies). So I decided the most important thing I could do for our readers is to complete the publishing of the entire Great Round I completed in 2008.

I’ve learned a lot from the practice of mandalas. It’s moved out into my photography practice. I’ve continued on to Coloring Mandalas 2 and hope to start posting them in 2010. Anything we take on as a practice — writing, haiku, photography, doodling — takes us where we need to go. Whether we decide to take a practice to the next level, or abandon it altogether because it has run its course, the structure, repetition, and dedication prove to be excellent teachers. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to color a few mandalas while Liz watches the Vikings game!

 

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, November 15th, 2009

-related to posts: The Void – January Mandalas, Dragon Fight – June Mandalas, Winding Down – July 4th Mandalas, and WRITING TOPIC – CIRCLES

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Continuity, BlackBerry Shots, pool near Clarks Hill Lake, Georgia, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






streaks of Southern light
splash across concrete pool deck
sink to the bottom


wading through memoir
old gravestones crack and crumble
worn secrets revealed


John Cheever lives on
fine art of the short story
distant memories


pool to pool to pool
we have all been The Swimmer
fighting for our lives






When I travel to Georgia with Mom, we stay at my Uncle Bill’s place on Clarks Hill Lake. Mom likes the wicker room on the first floor with a view of the lake and grounds. This year I stayed in the only upstairs bedroom in the wing of the house dedicated to recreation, exercise, and watching movies. In the past, I thought it a little strange to be the only person sleeping on the whole second floor. But this year, I grew to love the room. It’s quiet. No widescreen TV on the wall, no noise. And it looks out over a sea of Georgia pines on the shore of Clarks Hill Lake.

The dividing line between Georgia and South Carolina runs right through Clarks Hill Lake. I stay on the Georgia side with my uncle; my paternal aunts, Annette and Brenda, live not far from my uncle on the South Carolina side. I reconnected with my blood father’s sisters a few years ago after nearly 50 years. They had not seen me or my mother since I was 2 years old. Small world.

One morning I awoke and saw these streaks of light pulsing through the pool below me. It struck me how they hit the concrete first, then jumped into the water and immediately sank to the bottom. One thing I like about outdoor pools is the way the sunlight plays through the water during the day. Another thing about swimming — you get really good at holding your breath.

My grandfather had a pool when I was growing up. It wasn’t far from the bomb shelter he built outside his new home; it was the 1950’s. Among the things I remember clearly are the few sultry evenings when we swam at night. I also associate pools with John Cheever’s short story, The Swimmer. Ever since Natalie Goldberg had us read it for one of her Taos workshops, I’ve never forgotten it. Neither has writer Michael Chabon. In Salon, he calls The Swimmer “a masterpiece of mystery, language and sorrow.”

Who is your favorite short story writer? Have you ever written or published a short story? What do you associate with swimming pools? Exercise, relaxation, water polo, relief from the heat, family fun? Do a Writing Practice on Swimming Pools….10 Minutes, Go!


Lifeline, Lightbending (3), BlackBerry Shots
of pool near Clarks Hill Lake, Georgia, October
2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All
rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, November 14th, 2009, with gratitude to Natalie for all the writers she has introduced us to and made us read in spite of our resistance!

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), PRACTICE — Holding My Breath – 10min, The Vitality Of Place — Preserving The Legacy Of “Home”

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Sink Mandala II – Dragon Claw, Kohler Design Center, Kohler,
Wisconsin, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey.
All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
 

fierce constellation
one dragon, many faces
all run down the drain


water covers fire
ouroboros alchemy
swallows no desire


shadow eats itself
raw prima materia
circle is complete








-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, November 12th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), haiku for Kohler Arts, Dragon Fight — June Mandalas

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pseudonym

Definition: false name
Synonyms: AKA, alias, ananym, anonym, assumed name, handle*, incognito*, nickname, nom de guerre, nom de plume, pen name, professional name, stage name, summer name
Notes: an allonym is a pen name that is borrowed, not made-up like a pseudonym
Antonyms: name



The time has come. For three years I have blogged and doodled under (and behind) the pseudonym ybonesy. When we started, the alias was for protection; we didn’t know what kind of weirdos might read the blog. (Now we know, and I’m pretty sure I can best any of ‘em. Well, except for one, and she knows who she is.)

The nom de plume served me in other ways. It made me freer than I might have been early on in my writing. It’s strange sending your words out into the ether of the Internet. There were times when I thought, Well, no one gives a damn about turkeys who mate on the patio, or a snake who bathes, or my stress incontinence, but who cares? No one knows it’s me!

OK, I exaggerate. There were enough friends and family who knew it was me such that I was never truly anonymous. And I knew the kinky among you would appreciate turkey sex, wet snakes, and bed-wetting. (Going back to read that one, are you?)

But I’m ready to merge. I’m already a Gemini; having a pseudonym is like being four people. ybonesy has become me and I have become ybonesy. Time to take off the mask.



first, the facts


My name is Roma Arellano. I’m married to Jim. My daughters are not really Dee and Em, but since they’re not old enough to choose to go public, we’ll keep calling them Dee and Em. Sony the Pug, Baby the Bullsnake, Otis, and Rafael have used their real names from the beginning. They can all bite; thus, they never have worried about protection.

I work in high-tech. I love my job. I used to be a workaholic. It took almost burning out to finally figure out how to work and write in the same lifetime. My other big accomplishment is that I haven’t puked since I was 11; I’m now 48. I have emetophobia, so called because those who suffer are afraid of others emeto-ing all over us. Other than that, I’m like any other corporate writing painting wife mother blogger.



next, the hair


Why did God give us hair anyway? Didn’t he realize we’d figure out how to knit? I have the worst hair. One hairdresser used to call it Schnauzer fur. Then I’d pay him $85 to turn me into a retriever.

Long? Short? You get to decide which is better. Voting is anonymous, or you can vote using your pseudonym. I will not be crushed and depressed for two weeks if you hate my new hair. (After all, I still have my no-puke streak, and you can’t take that away from me.)




BEFORE: Looking like a raptor that just spotted a mouse in a field.


roma long hair 1



AFTER: Aw, I am so shy. Haven’t I proven myself to be shy?















lastly, the stuff


The biggest reason for taking off the mask is that I’m selling my goods and I want to claim them as my own. Part of embracing myself as a creative being is embracing my creations. So instead of ybonesy being my pseudonym, ybonesy is my muse.

And it’s the name of my new Etsy shop. If you haven’t heard about Etsy, it is “your place to buy and sell all things handmade.” You’ll need an Etsy account to buy there, but you will find great items from so many different vendors that it’s worth the trouble setting up an account.


http://www.etsy.com/shop/romaarellano


Wallinga Design, the same graphic design company that created the red Ravine logo, also created my new logo. Professional people and fun to work with. We were aiming for something quirky, bold, emetophobic. Wow, you’re still paying attention?


ybonesy (that's me)


If you have any questions about my shop, you can ask them here. I have more items to add, and more to make. Keep checking in. I haven’t made a sale yet. I might just shave my head when I do make one.



epilogue


If you want to keep calling me ybonesy or yb, that works for me. Or you can call me Roma. Or you can call me Emeto-dork. Or just dork.

QuoinMonkey, who I fondly call QM, is not taking off her mask right away. But eventually, and she doesn’t look anything like a hawk going in for the kill.

OK. All done now. This feels good.




See? I told you I was a dork.

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November Frost Moon, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The moon is beautiful in the Fall. Maybe it’s because in October I traveled to Pennsylvania, drove down to Georgia and South Carolina, then flew back to Minnesota, that I paid more attention to the skies. Or because I’m out driving during the day and the Moon grounds me to the sky. Yesterday the sun set in a giant orange ball over three cemeteries on the way home from work. It sank before I could get my BlackBerry camera into position.

I’ve been enjoying the new BlackBerry. Have taken a few hundred photos with the phone camera over the last month. It’s quick and easy and I can post to Twitter as soon as I shoot. I like the grain of the nightshots. Not as clear as with my regular Canon G6 point and shoot. But spontaneous and fun.

I wanted to post these shots of the November Frost Moon. Liz and I were stopped by its beauty on the way to get a Redbox movie, drove off on a side road by a local park, slipped out and shot a few images with our cell phones. Do you take phone shots? What do you do with the images? I’m thinking about uploading them into a Flickr set.

I posted a series of Moonshots in 2008. Made it a practice to follow the monthly patterns of the moon. Back then, I missed November and posted Frost Moon (Faux November) instead. This is my way of making up with the Moon. On these dark Fall days, I’m happy for the light of the Frost Moon. Winter Solstice is just around the corner.

BlackBerry Moon, BlackBerry Shots,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2009, all
photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, November 7th, 2009

-more Lunar posts from over the years by ybonesy & QuoinMonkey in 13 Moons

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Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine asked parishioners to donate to the Maine “marriage restoration” campaign. Officials said the donations were to help pay for television ads aimed at overturning a state law legislators passed last spring recognizing same-sex unions as “marriage.”

                                                          ~Catholic News Agency, 9/14/09



The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine accounted for 81% of in-state fund-raising to fight Equal Marriage.

                                                  ~EqualityAmerica on Twitter, 11/4/09



…thank the people of Maine for protecting and reaffirming their support for marriage as it has been understood for millenia by civilizations and religions around the world…

While the Catholic Church will continue its commitment to work for the basic human rights to which all people are entitled, it remains devoted to preserving and strengthening the precious gift of marriage.

          ~Bishop Richard Malone, Diocese of Maine, Catholic News Agency




Dear Bishop Malone,

When I was a girl sitting in Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Albuquerque, my dad always let me drop the tithing envelope he prepared every Sunday into the basket. I watched my knock-knees bob as I swung my legs, waiting for the usher to get to our pew. Ours was always the same usher, lanky and worn and with a thin mustache. He would stretch with the basket-on-a-stick to reach me. In the envelope went, with pennies, quarters, and bills from other parishioners.

Dad also gave to the Maryknoll nuns, and each month I leafed through the small magazine that came, showing what Catholics did in the world to help the poor. I saw pictures of round-bellied toddlers in Africa and sad-looking orphans in Guatemala. We had bake sales outside our church, and the little Spanish-speaking mothers and grandmothers who’d lived in the neighborhood for generations came together to work for those in need.

I couldn’t imagine being a girl in a church today and having my father give me money to put into the basket. What does a parent say to the child in one of your churches?

“Oh, that twenty dollar bill? It’s going to pay for a television ad that will tell the world what a sin it will be if gays and lesbians get married like us.”

“But, Mama, why can’t they get married?”

“Because, marriage is our precious gift. God only gave it to heterosexual men and women.”

Almost a third of individuals in the US who were raised within the Catholic faith leave the Church, and those who leave outnumber those who join. This means that Catholicism in the U.S. is a religion in decline. Moreoever, according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, among religions that experience a loss of members due to changes in affliations, Catholicism has experienced the greatest net loss.

And it’s not just the parishioners that you have failed to inspire. It is those who are supposed to do the inspiring. Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate statistics show that in 1965, there were 8,325 graduate-level seminarians in the U.S., almost a thousand ordinations, and more than 58,000 Catholic priests. By 2009, the number of seminarians is down to just over 3,300, only 472 ordinations, and just above 40,000 priests.

All over the nation, Catholic churches are closing or merging. There is a lack of Catholic chaplains in the military. The Vatican even announced last month its desire to bring on Anglican priests disgruntled over their church’s acceptance of female priests and openly gay bishops.

Is this what the Catholic Church has become—a haven for those who cannot tolerate equality? Don’t want to see women stand shoulder-to-shoulder with men? Join the Catholic Church! Don’t think that homosexuals are fit to be spiritual leaders? Join the Catholic Church! Want to keep loving and committed gays and lesbians away from the ritual of marriage? The Catholic Church wants YOU!

In my family, a priest was the best thing a boy could grow up to become. My father was altar boy in two masses each Sunday, and his cousin went into the seminary. But Father Tony, as we called Dad’s cousin, was gay. He left his parish not long after becoming a priest. Much later, stricken with AIDS, he was reinstated and allowed to give mass one last time before he died. That was two decades ago—during a kinder, gentler Catholicism.

You and your fellow leaders are the opposite of what I understood Jesus Christ to be, one who walked among those rejected by the rest of society, who advocated on their behalf, who protected the marginalized. Without havng children yourselves, you instruct us on family planning. You are celibate and unmarried, yet you claim to understand love, intimacy, and the precious gift of marriage? What conceit.

Instead of trying to protect this gift, why not work at bettering men who abuse women and make marriage untenable, or heterosexuals who step in and out of the ritual as if it were a coat? Maybe those denied the right to marry for so long will treat it as the precious gift you say it is.

My father still goes to church and still tithes. He is frail now, and sometimes he watches mass on TV. Most Sundays, my sister or brother take him. They walk him slowly to the spot he likes, in the middle of the church. Not so close as to appear overly eager, but not so far away as to seem laggardly. He left Our Lady of Guadalupe after 35 years in 2004, when the priest told him who to vote for. This latest parish has thus far not meddled in places it has no business being.

I used to be sad about the direction of the Catholic Church. But now I am ashamed and angry.

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Veins, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, October 2009, all photos
© 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

Day to day life creeps up on you. Practice falls by the wayside. Goals seem out of reach. Something inside makes you keep going.

Early October was my second time in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin to meet with three other Midwest writers in retreat. We arrived on Sunday, left on Wednesday, but we sure packed in the writing. I nearly filled an entire notebook. We try to meet every 6 months. The first night, we check in, slip sheets on the cabin beds, walk by Lake Michigan, get all the gossip and gabbing out of the way. The next day we dive in.

It’s cold this time of year. One person becomes the Firekeeper. The wood pile needs to be replenished. The fire keeps us warm. There is a need for leadership, someone to time the Writing Practices, lead the slow walking, provide structure for the silence — a Timekeeper. Most traditions have a Firekeeper and a Timekeeper. I am grateful for their effort.

Before the writing begins, we tear off pages of a lined yellow tablet, jot down Writing Topics, and throw them into a bowl. We take turns choosing a Topic and rotate who reads first. Some of the best Writing Practices surface from the strangest Writing Topics. My Other Self. Holy-Moley. The Broken Glass. After a few years of meeting, we have settled into a groove. I trust these writers.

One of the Writing Topics we drew out of the bowl was  “I Write Because…” When the retreat was over, I asked everyone if they would mind if I published the practices. For me, they harken back to the days when ybonesy and I first launched red Ravine (it grew out of our practice). And she has written with these writers, too. Bob and Teri have been frequent guests on red Ravine. Jude was one of our first guests, writing her piece 25 Reasons I Write from one of the cabins near the lake.

I want to share the structure of our writing retreats because anyone can form a writing group. Community is important. For the four of us, meeting together works because we live in fairly close proximity in the Midwest. We can make the drive in 8 to 10 hours if we want to. Last time, Teri, Jude, and I flew to Kansas City, Missouri. We’re thinking about meeting in Duluth, Minnesota on Lake Superior in 6 months.

I don’t want to make it sound easy. It takes a financial investment up front. And a continued commitment to check in with each other and plan the next meeting at least 3 months ahead. But the rewards are plentiful. Accountability. Support. People who believe in me when I forget how to believe in myself. Some days it feels like our hands are going to fall off from the writing. We crave the silence.

We laugh long and hard. Deep belly laughs. Sometimes we cry.  It feels good to laugh like that, to share meals together. Teri brings wild rice soup from Minnesota. Bob travels with a different kind of Kansas City barbecue each time we meet. Jude prepares her favorite dishes. I don’t like to cook. I volunteer to do the dishes.

The Timekeeper sent me a rundown of our schedule. It works pretty much the same way each time we meet. We follow what we learned from Natalie Goldberg about silence and structure and Writing Practice. Sit, walk, write. We do it because we don’t want to be tossed away. We do it because, for us, it works. It’s one way to write. It teaches discipline. It’s solid. It takes us where we need to go.

_____________________________

 
 

 Writing Retreat Schedule

 
 

Wake up. Silence begins.
Meet for sit, walk, write at 9 a.m.
Sit for 20 minutes.
Walk for 5-10 minutes.
Write: four, 10-minute Writing Practices…one right after the other.
Read one practice, go around the group.
Repeat for the remaining three practices.
Break for 5-10 minutes. (Can break before reading, but usually break after reading)
Return to group.
Write two more practices.
Read them to each other.
About 11:30, break for lunch. Some prep required and we ate lunch in silence.
In silence and on our own until 3 p.m. when we return to the group.
Sit for 20 minutes.
Walk for 5-10 minutes.
Write: four, 10-minute writing practices.
Read each practice write to the group.
Break for dinner about 5:30 p.m.
Break silence.
Dinner at 6.
Talking about writing, life, etc.
Read writing projects we are working on.

 
 

Second Day

Repeat of the first day.

 
 

Third/Last Day

Meet for discussion of goals for next 6 months.
Sit for 10 minutes.
Then take 1/2 hour or 45 minutes to formulate writing/creative goals for the next 6 months.
Meet in group.
Each person discusses goals.
Group comments and person refines goals.

Each member of the group emails their goals to one person who puts them all together, sends them out for review, and then issues final email to group with all the goals listed.

Report to each other on 15th of the month and the last day of the month on our progress…a check-in.

 
 

_____________________________

 
 
 

What I really want to say is I’m grateful for other writers. I admire and respect those who hone their craft, who dedicate time to their practice, who complete projects and get their work out there (no matter how long it takes).

 
 

For me, these self-propelled mini-retreats work because:

  • Follow the same Sit, Walk, Write structure each time. Consistent format.
  • Time to talk, laugh, share. Time for silence. Time alone for reflection. Time to stare into space.
  • No shame, no blame. We write our asses off, we read aloud. No crosstalk or feedback (except around goals).
  • Set 6 month goals, check in every two weeks. Learn that we all go through highs and lows; we all want to quit writing at times.
  • Clarity about money. Split the costs of lodging and groceries.
  • Short visits to museums, cafes, local color, either before or after retreat.
  • Practice feeds practice. Apply what is learned to other practices: photography, haiku, poetry, art.
  • What happens at the retreat, stays at the retreat.

 
Maybe Bob, Jude, and Teri will share more about why these mini-retreats work for them. I was reading through my notebook from early October. There were notes I had jotted in the margins from a conversation we had about what success as a writer means to each of us. What does success mean to you?

What would your writing retreat look like? Go for it. Choose a time. Hook up with other writers. Create a structure. Write. Don’t look for perfection. Let yourself slip up, make mistakes, stop writing for a while if you want to. But don’t be tossed away. Here are our unedited Writing Practices on why we write. Why do you write?

 
 

I Write Because…10 minutes. Go!

 
 
 

____________________

 
 
 

Teri Blair

 
 

I don’t know why I write anymore. That’s the problem. I used to write because I needed to. That was most of my life. Most of my life until I took a sabbatical six years ago. Until then, I found solace on the page; I straightened out my life with a pen and paper. Writing was one of my best friends…certainly a most faithful friend.

And then, I took the sabbatical and began this journey. This concentrate-on-writing-journey. It went well initially. I let myself write all those essays, I joined the Blue Mooners writing group, I studied with Natalie Goldberg, and I starting working with Scott. I sent my work out and even got some small paychecks from editors. But somewhere in there, during these six years, it changed. People started asking me if I had sold anything, asking me about writing all the time. I wanted them to ask me, and then I didn’t. I was losing something by involving everyone, and then it just turned into a pressure. I was writing to have an answer to their questions. Or to feel special. When this was dawning on me, I went to hear Mary Oliver at the State Theater. She told the writers in the audience to write a long, long time before they tried to publish. I knew she was right. I knew I had to go back inside myself if I was going to save this thing that I had once loved and needed and felt close to.

The trip out of the pressure has been much more difficult than the joy-ride in. And now, all I want to do is write, but nothing comes. The voice inside prods: Why do you want to write? Are you going to try to get your life needs met through me? If I come back, will you go down the same old path?

I’m not yet solid in my convictions, though very close.

 
 

____________________

 
 
 

Jude Ford

 
 
I write because…there are as many reasons to do it as there are reasons not to. At this point, after all these years of honing my writing skills, it would feel like a waste – and a loss – to not do it.

I write because I love to read. Reading triggers my mind to come up with my own ways of arranging words. Reading reminds me of what I want/need to say.

I write because I didn’t feel listened to as a kid. Yeah, yeah, I probably talked so much back then that no one ever could listen to me enough to make me feel heard. My father used to like to say I’d been vaccinated with a phonograph needle in infancy. (I just realized what a dated image that is. Who ever associates a needle with sound in 2009?!)

I don’t feel well listened to even now, I guess. I got into the habit, as I was growing up, of speaking less and less and by the time I turned 21, I’d perfected the art of being agreeable rather than speaking up about who I was or what I thought. I didn’t even know, myself, who I was or what I thought half the time.

But I wrote. Starting when I was 19 and left home for good, I wrote all the time. My journals from my 20’s are full of depression and melodrama, poems that sound as young as I was. When I read them now, they make me cringe.

And yet – I remember what those journals were to me at the time, my one lifeline, my safest place, the only place in my life where I brought all of my true self.

I write still so that I can find out who I am and what I think. There are other lifelines now – Chris, my friends, my work – where I also bring my true self but writing remains one of my mainstays.

 
 

____________________

 
 
 

Bob Chrisman

 
 
I write because something inside me wants to tell my stories, put them outside myself and free up the space they take inside me, free up that energy I use to keep the unpleasant ones out of my consciousness. I write because I want to make sense of a non-sensical life, the one I live. Sometimes the connections don’t become obvious until I see them laid out on paper in front of me.

I write to tell my story so that anyone out there who is or has experienced some of the things I have will know they aren’t alone, will know that I survived what they are going through. I write to connect with other people because when I do I feel successful as a human being.

I write because I must. Writing makes me feel free once I’m finished. Starting a piece may prove difficult. I may even avoid writing for days or weeks, but once I begin and finish a difficult piece I feel freer.

I write because writing has introduced me to some of the most wonderful people in the world, people who give me hope that we may deal with our problems and change the world, save us from ourselves.

I write because I must tell my truth to the world, as much as I feel safe telling.

I write because it feels good to see the words appear on the paper as the pen glides across the page. Sometimes surprises happen. Things appear that I didn’t consciously mean to say. Misspelled words give new meaning to what I said, new truth.

I write because writing gives me control over my life.

 
 

____________________

 
 
 

QuoinMonkey

 
 

I write because I love to write. I love writers. I write because it’s a place that is still. I let myself dive into the black. I am honest with myself. Things never seem to be as bad as I think they are when I write.

I write to make sense out of my life. My mother’s life. My grandmother’s life. My crazy family. I write with a community of writers because I know I’m not alone. Because they help me hold the space. Because they are not afraid of what they might find in the silence.

I write to learn about things I would never research if it were not for writing. I write to learn. I write to quell the hunger. I write to still my insatiable curiosity.

I write to help me confront my own death. I write to find my voice, to tap into my inner courage. I write to not feel so alone. Yet writing is lonely. And when I write I am often alone. I write to connect with what is important to me. To connect with others. I write. I write. I write.

I have always written. But writing with wild abandon is something I’ve had to relearn as an adult.

I write to push myself outside of the lines. Because I care about the writers who came before me. I write to teach others how to write. Don’t do as I say; do as I do.

Writing practice frees me. But it’s not a finished piece. It may never be a finished piece. Yet it might.

Writing Practice takes me where I need to go. Teaches me Faith. Patience. Courage. Risktaking. That it’s okay to cry. Conflict resolution. What I care about. What I could care less about.

I don’t have to love everyone or everything. Writing is structure. It teaches me how to live.

 

-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

-related to Topic: WRITING TOPIC — 25 REASONS I WRITE

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