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Archive for the ‘Writing Topics’ Category

The Honeycrisp Apple - 108/365

The Honeycrisp Apple, Archive 365, Droid Shots, The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chaska, Minnesota, September 2012, photos © 2012-2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Apples were a crisp, healthy snack when I was growing up. The apple varieties I was most familiar with then were Red Delicious and Granny Smiths. On a recent trip to the grocery store, I was introduced to two apples I had never tasted before: the KIKU and the Ambrosia. If you draw a thermometer and add a scale from sweet to tart, here’s where they fit in:  SWEET — KIKU, Fuji, Ambrosia, Gala, Jonagold, Cameo, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Honeycrisp, Kanzi, Braeburn, Pink Lady, Granny Smith — TART.

Apples are closely linked to place, and many of us are familiar with the Gala from New Zealand or the Fuji from Japan (both developed in the 1930s). In the history of the apple industry, the three varieties I favor are relatively new to the world. The Ambrosia originated in the 1990s in the Similkameen Valley of British Columbia, Canada where the Mother Tree still lives. Local favorite the Honeycrisp was developed by the University of Minnesota and introduced in 1991. The Honeycrisp is a cross between a Macoun and a Honeygold (the Honeygold itself a cross between the Golden Delicious and Haralson). The KIKU came about in 1990 when Luis Braun, the South Tyrolean apple expert, was traveling through Japan and discovered a branch in an orchard, which a few years later would become the sweet KIKU apple.

What’s your favorite apple?




Where does your mind go when I say apple? Is it your first bite of a lunchtime snack, a trip where you picked orchard apples with your family, or the smell of fresh apple pie right out of the oven (check out this great apple pie recipe from ybonesy: 1-2-3! Apple Pie Gluten-Free!). Are you reminded of a computer company? Or perhaps a certain snake and the precursor to the Seven Deadly Sins (another good Writing Topic). Do you believe the adage, An apple a day keeps the doctor away?

Let your mind wander to all the places where apples grow, and capture your impressions in a Writing Practice.

Apple, 15 minutes, Go!


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The KIKU Apple, Archive 365, Droid Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2013, photos © 2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




RESOURCES:

History of the Honeycrisp AppleNew Kid On The Block at Wood Orchard Market

History of the Ambrosia Apple - Ambrosia History at Ambrosia Organic

History of the KIKU AppleStory – 20 Years at Kiku Apple


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, March 3rd, 2013


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Missing Ely’s Sky – 23/365, Archive 365, Droid Shots, Ely, Minnesota, photo © 2012 by Liz Schultz. All rights reserved.


Rooster, Cloud

Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007-2012 QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Clouds are connectors. We see cloud formations as recognizable, weather predicting puffs of air. Clouds are classified using a Latin Linnean system based on a book written by a London pharmacist, Quaker, and amateur meteorologist named Luke Howard. In 1803, he wrote The Modifications of Clouds naming the various cloud structures he had studied.

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New Hope, Minnesota, photo © 2010-2012 QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The terms used by Howard were readily accepted by the meteorological community and detailed in The International Cloud Atlas, published by the World Meteorological Organization in 1896. They are still used across the world today.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) extended Luke Howard’s classifications into 10 main groups of clouds, called genera. These are divided into three levels – cloud low (CL), cloud medium (CM) and cloud high (CH) – according to the part of the atmosphere in which they are usually found. Types of clouds can be categorized by height and are divided up by the following names:

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Cloud level (ft) Cloud type
High clouds – (CH) Base usually 20,000 ft or above
Medium clouds – (CM) Base usually between 6,500 and 20,000 ft
Low clouds – (CL) Base usually below 6,500 ft

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The names of clouds are based on their height as well as their appearance. Common cloud names are derived from Latin:

  • Stratus— means layer and refers to the group of clouds that form in big sheets covering the entire sky. Stratus clouds are made of liquid water and are called fog or mists when close to the Earth. The blend of altostratus can cause ice build up on the wings of aircraft.
  • Cumulus—in Latin cumulus means heap. These are fair-weather clouds that we might say look like cotton candy or castles.
  • Alto—means middle and refers to clouds that are in the middle layer of our atmosphere.
  • Cirrus—means curl in Latin. These clouds are high up and look like wisps of hair. Cirrus are the highest of all clouds and are made up almost entirely of ice crystals.
  • Nimbus—comes from the Latin word for rain. Whenever there is precipitation, there are nimbus clouds.

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Shadow Leaves, Dusk On The Mississippi, photos © 2007-
2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

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What do you think of when you say the word cloud? Do you see the Universe, fog hanging on the mountains, the sky over the prairie? How many types of clouds can you name. Or maybe cloud to you is not that literal. Is your iced tea cloudy; are there clouds in your coffee? Is there a cloud over your day or your mood? Does your past cloud your vision of the future?


Get out your fast writing pens and write the Topic Cloud at the top of your spiral notebook (or start tapping away on your computer or Smartphone).

You can write a haiku, tanka, or gogyohka practice and post it in the comments.

Or you may be surprised at what you discover when you follow the rules of Writing Practice —- Cloud, 10 minutes, Go!


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Resources:

Cloud Spotting Guide — UK Met Office

Cloud Types for Observers — Reading the Sky — UK Met Office

Cloud Atlas

Common Cloud Names, Shapes, & Altitudes – Georgia Tech

Cotton CloudinessTop Of The Cedar Avenue Bridge - 207/365

Cotton Cloudiness, Top Of The Cedar Avenue Bridge, photo ©
2008-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

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believe


Definition: accept as true, credit with veracity, follow a credo, judge or regard
Synonyms: v. 1. maintain, assert, opine, hold, consider, regard, conceive, trust, have faith in, confide in, credit, accept, affirm, swear by, have no doubt
Quotes: ♦ In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true. — Buddha

 

♦ I believe that every person is born with talent.  — Maya Angelou

 

♦ The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just. — Abraham Lincoln

 

♦ 20. Believe in the holy contour of life — Jack Kerouac from BELIEF & TECHNIQUE FOR MODERN PROSE

Antonyms: disbelieve, distrust



I believe…



Do you believe in the Lock Ness Monster, the Man in the Moon, Santa Claus? Do you believe in finding Big Foot, flying saucers, ghosts in the machine? Do you believe this year will be better than the last? Do you believe in yourself, your visions, your dreams? The things I believe change from year to year, decade to decade. I used to believe in the tooth fairy, the Velvet Underground, peace, love and rock and roll. What do you believe?

In the 1950s, a radio program called This I Believe was hosted by journalist Edward R. Murrow. Each day, Americans gathered by their radios to hear essays from people like Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, Wallace Stegner, Helen Keller, and Harry Truman—anyone able to distill the guiding principles by which they lived into a few minutes. (For inspiration, you can listen to essays on broadcasts from the 1950s at This I Believe.)

What are the principles by which you live? Are they different than they were two, three, or four years ago? Do you hang around friends who share your beliefs? Or push to expose yourself to other ways of thinking. The goal of the contemporary version of This I Believe (revived on NPR in 2004) was not to persuade Americans to agree on the same beliefs, but to encourage people to develop respect for beliefs different from their own.


Get out your fast writing pens and write the Topic I believe… at the top of your spiral notebook (or start tapping away on your computer or Smartphone).

You can write a haiku, tanka, or gogyohka  practice and post it in the comments.

Or you may be surprised at what you discover when you follow the rules of Writing Practice —- I believe…, 10 minutes, Go!


-posted on red Ravine, Monday, January 2nd, 2012

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Chocolate – One Of Life’s Simple Pleasures – 28/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 28 BlackBerry 52 response to Jump-Off from Lotus, Around the City: Simple Pleasures, July 15th, 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It’s late in the evening at the end of a long week, so I’m going to make this Writing Topic short—and sweet (the way I like my chocolate). Though today we think of chocolate as having at least a hint of sweetness, it wasn’t always so. According to the Smithsonian’s article A Brief History of Chocolate it is estimated that chocolate has been around for over 2000 years, and for about 90 percent of that history, it was strictly a beverage, and sugar didn’t have anything to do with it. It wasn’t until Europeans came to the Americas that chocolate was sweetened with cane sugar and honey.

The Timeline of Chocolate History at The Gourmet Chocolate of the Month Club states that in 1765, the first chocolate factory appeared in the United States in pre-revolutionary New England, where the production of chocolate proceeded at a faster pace than anywhere else in the world. And in 1797, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe toured Switzerland and insisted on having chocolate available at all times, along with a chocolate pot.

According to the Smithsonian, we often misuse words related to the origins of chocolate:

Most experts these days use the term “cacao” to refer to the plant or its beans before processing, while the term “chocolate” refers to anything made from the beans. “Cocoa” generally refers to chocolate in a powdered form, although it can also be a British form of “cacao.”

Etymologists trace the origin of the word “chocolate” to the Aztec word “xocoatl,” which referred to a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans. The Latin name for the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, means “food of the gods.”

Nectar of the gods. The Midwest Writing Group I am in never meets without indulging in a few bars of gourmet chocolate. (And it’s no secret that our teacher Natalie loves chocolate.) Reading, writing, and chocolate just seem to go together. Have you ever read Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or delighted in Gene Wilder’s portrayal of Willy in the film (based on Dahl’s book) Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory?

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The Secrets Of ChocolateWhat is your favorite chocolate? Do you prefer milk chocolate or dark chocolate? Do you believe chocolate has aphrodisiac properties? Scientists have isolated phenylethylamine (PEA) which is a stimulant found in chocolate, and also in the brain. A miniscule amount of PEA is released at moments of emotional euphoria, raising blood pressure and heart rate. Is there a connection between food and the brain?

Last week Liz brought these chocolate bars home from Trader Joe’s. She chose the dark with walnuts and pecans; mine is the Swiss milk. Let’s put a slightly different twist on this Writing Practice. Instead of writing Chocolate at the top of your page, head into the kitchen and rip open your favorite chocolate bar. Slip a square right on top of your tongue, and write down what connects pen, page and a delicious chunk of chocolate — 15 minutes, Go!


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, July 16th, 2011

Lotus and I will continue to respond to each other’s BlackBerry Jump-Off photos with text, photography, poetry (however we are inspired) for the 52 weeks of 2011. You can read more at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration. If you are inspired to join us, send us a link to your images, poetry, or prose and we’ll add them to our posts.

-related to posts: the velveeta cheese of donuts haiku, WRITING TOPIC — CANDY FREAK, Homage to a Candy Freak, On Candy, Candy Stash — Barter Is Better

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My First Bicycle — Morristown, Tennessee, BlackBerry Shot of C-41 film print, Morristown, Tennessee, April 1959, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Do you remember your first bicycle? Did you learn to ride a bike in the 40′s, 50′s, 60′s, or 70′s? Were you sporting a Schwinn, Raleigh, or Western Flyer, 24 or 26- inch frame, balloon-tired, single-speed coaster, three-speed, or ten-speed? Whenever I could, I’d steal away on my brother’s Schwinn Sting-Ray with the banana seat. Did your bike have a Wheelie-Bar (check out this cool poster for the WHAM-O Wheelie-Bar)?

In the 1960′s and 70′s, bikes were booming. (Prior to the 1960′s, most bicycles were sold to children.) In 1960, 3.7 million bikes were sold in the U.S., with sales jumping to 15.2 million by 1973. When I took off the training wheels and graduated to a 26-inch frame, I’m pretty sure I was riding high on the Schwinn Fair Lady. Was my brother riding a Tiger? Did my sister have a Sting-Ray Stardust? I remember her bike had a white basket on the front, laced with flowers.

How many times did you fall off your bicycle when you were learning to ride? Did you use training wheels or go out into that brave new world balancing on the head of a pin. Tell me everything you know about your early bicycle experiences. The look, the feel, the wind in your hair. Were there plastic streamers flowing out of the grips, clothes pins snapped to playing cards (could they be Bicycle) and clipped to the frame, chattering over the spokes? Did you ride with “no hands?”

Get out a fast writing pen and a spiral notebook and do an old-fashioned handwritten Writing Practice. Write My First Bicycle at the top of the page and 15 minutes, Go!


-posted on red Ravine, Friday, May 13th, 2011

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Web & Dew: The Space Between, BlackBerry Shots, July 2010, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Over 90 inches of snow have disappeared from our lawn in temperatures that reach the 50′s by day, drop down to freezing at night. Winter is dying a slow death. Seasons change, transitions in temperament and landscape. The snowmelt runs into rivers and streams, the salt leaves potholes. But soon, tiny shoots of emerald will erupt through the dank, dead, chestnut grass. Winter must die to usher in Spring.

There is power in recognizing impending death. I remember the year my mother told me that when her time came, she was ready to die. We were visiting the South, walking down the cemetery hill from my grandmother’s grave in Georgia. I burst out crying; she hugged me and held me close. I thought the tears inside would never stop. “Honey, don’t worry,” she said. “I’m ready.”

Frankenbelly 3's Birthday - 321/365 Last year, my brother nearly died, before receiving a liver transplant at the 11th hour. It’s an experience that pulled our family together, one we share with countless others. If a person who loses their spouse is a widow, what’s the name for a child who loses a parent? Or a parent who loses a child? There should be a formal naming. For children, it should not be the word “orphan.” That implies that you never held the person close, lived with or loved your parent. There should be another word.

I think of what it must be like to be the one left behind. When I saw writer Joyce Carol Oates in Minneapolis at Talk of the Stacks last week, I bought her new memoir, A Widow’s Story. Her husband Raymond died unexpectedly late one winter night in 2008; the next morning Joyce was supposed to have gone to the hospital, picked him up, and brought him home to recover. It’s the story of loss, grief, and pain; of giant gift baskets, grieving cats, and mounds of trash; of how no one really understood. Yet in the end, she realized that everyone understood. Because Death is a universal experience. It’s just that we don’t talk about it anymore or know how to incorporate it into our lives.

Porkys Since 1953 There is more to Death than the loss of loved ones. Sometimes whole cultures die, like the Anasazi who inhabited the Four Corners country of southern Utah, southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, and northern Arizona from about A.D. 200 to A.D. 1300, and then disappeared. Cultural traditions die, too, like Porky’s Drive-In in St. Paul. It was owned by the same family since 1953, and closed its doors last Sunday, April 3rd, 2011. Animals die, and it is certain that we will probably outlive many of our beloved pets (our cat Chaco died a few years ago, June 25th, 2009).

Groups we are in community with have life spans, too. Circles of intimacy change and grow; sometimes we end up leaving people behind. Or they leave us. During one session of a year-long Intensive with Natalie Goldberg, one of the participants was killed in a car crash. The group was stunned. These were people we thought we would sit and write with for an entire year. It was not to be. I remember we chanted the Heart Sutra. I remember finding comfort in the ritual.

Cemetery Fog At Workmens Circle - 70/365 Ah, I feel a heaviness this Spring. But it’s a collective heaviness. Like something is shifting in the Universe. There’s too much going on in the world, too many catastrophes, too many unexpected deaths, too many aging and dying people, too many widows and widowers, for there not to be something going on at the Spiritual level. But that’s just my belief. I know there are people who say this occurred at every period in history. But there are certain paradigm shifts that happen and change the planet as a whole. We can either learn our lessons and get on board the train that moves forward. Or stay stuck in the past, not doing the work that’s required of us.

It’s the New Moon. New beginnings. There is value in what has come before, in the history we have with other people we were close to at one time. It’s good to honor and remember. All of that follows us, and I believe we transform it. All energy is creative energy. Even the energy of Death. It cycles back around into new life. Death can be a release of suffering. It also creates a giant abyss of loss. Maybe we’d be wise to befriend the Grim Reaper. Maybe it is others who are dying or have passed over who teach us the courage and strength to face our own death. Maybe the space between death and dying…is life.


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Transitions - Catch & Release Though many of our ancestors accepted and honored the process of Death through rituals, sitting, slowing down, it feels like our fast-paced modern world doesn’t know how to stop moving, how to have a conversation about death and dying, or where to put it in the flow of our day-to-day lives. It makes for a good Writing Topic, a good topic for discussion on red Ravine. Why can’t we talk face to face about death? Maybe it’s easier to write about it.

Take out a fast writing pen and notebook, or fire up your computer and write Death & Dying at the top of your page. Then 15 minutes, Go! Or do a Writing Practice on everything you know about any aspect of death and dying. Please feel free to share any insights in the comments below.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, April 5th, 2011. Parts of the piece were taken from several Writing Practices written last weekend, April 2nd & 3rd.

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC — 3 QUESTIONS, Reflection — Through The Looking Glass, Make Positive Effort For The Good, The Uses Of Sorrow — What Is It About Obituaries?, Reading The Obits, and a great interview with Joyce Carol Oates on MPR Midmorning with Kerri Miller – A Widow’s Story — The Story Of Joyce Carol Oates

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I spent yesterday up to my elbows in dust bunnies, paper filing, and boxes of old memories. I have started Spring Cleaning. In the middle of this seasonal ritual, I stopped to read an old letter that revealed a secret, found a bulging folder full of fun city facts dated about the time Indria (our home) was purchased, and discovered a buried file that Liz had labeled Essential Oils and Homemade Air Fresheners. I thought it would be fun to post the old-fashioned cleaning remedies. Have you ever tried Borax, white vinegar, Ivory soap?

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Homemade Cleaning Remedies


All Purpose Cleaner I

1 tsp Borax
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vinegar
1/4 tsp dish washing liquid
2 cups hot water


All Purpose Cleaner II

Fill a 32 oz spray bottle nearly full with water. Add a squirt or two of Ivory liquid dish soap. Put the sprayer back on and gently shake the bottle until the soap has been evenly distributed. Use Ivory because most other dish soaps leave behind a filmy residue. Ivory is especially safe for Corion, marble and wood counter tops and butcher blocks. And it’s safe to use on brass or gold plated faucets.


Carpet Cleaner

1 cup crushed herbs (lavender or rosemary)
4 drops essential oil (lavender or rosemary)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp clove
2 tsp baking soda

Shake in a jar to blend & sprinkle carpet.


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Homemade Air Fresheners for Household Odors


Cinnamon & Cloves

Boil the spices for a fragrant smell. For ease of cleaning, make a cheesecloth bag to contain the spices, and boil the cheesecloth bag. An excellent alternative when entertaining is to steep spiced tea or cider.

Oil of Wintergreen

Dampen cotton balls with oil of wintergreen and place out of sight, but where air will touch them.

Vinegar

Distribute partially filled saucers of vinegar around the room or boil 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in 1 cup of water to eliminate unpleasant cooking odors.

Vanilla

Place pure vanilla on a cotton ball in a small saucer. Place the saucer in the car or refrigerator to remove odors. Vanilla is renowned to remove even skunk odors. Keep the cotton ball out of reach of children; vanilla has a high alcohol content.

Baking Soda

Place a partially filled box of baking soda on the refrigerator shelf. Replace every 2 months. Pour the contents of the used box down the drain to remove odors and keep the drain clean. Baking soda can also be used to deodorize bottles by filling them with undiluted baking soda and allowing the bottles to soak overnight. Then wash as usual. (To read about the difference between baking soda and baking powder, see WRITING TOPIC — COOKING FIASCOS.)

Borax

To inhibit growth of odor-producing molds and bacteria, sprinkle 1/2 cup Borax in the bottom of the garbage can. Empty garbage frequently and clean the can as needed.

Vinegar Or Celery Stalk

To avoid or remove onion odors from your hands, rub white vinegar on your hands before and after slicing. Rubbing hands with the end of a celery stalk will also remove the odor.

Potpourri

Buy or make your own potpourri from your favorite herbs and spices. Place the potpourri in a small basket or jar or in small sachet bags.

Ventilation

Open windows or doors in the house for at least a short period every day. This will help to reduce toxic fumes that may build up indoors.

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We have written about cleanliness and attitudes about staying clean in WRITING TOPIC — CLEANLINESS. But seasonal cleaning rituals set a different tone. What home remedies were passed down in your family? What are your favorite cleaning tools (I’m fond of Wanda Wooley). How clean is clean?

Do you do windows once a year, twice a year? Does your entire family pitch in on the seasonal cleaning of your house, or does it fall to you. In Minnesota, Spring arrives late after a long Winter. Do you start your Spring Cleaning in February, March, April, or May? You can even write about how you hate Spring Cleaning!

Get out your fast writing pen, your laptop, or a spiral notebook and do a Writing Practice on Spring Cleaning. Fifteen minutes, Go!


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, February 13th, 2011

-related to post: What If Madge Were Chicana?

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Joy Is, Joy Is Not, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis,
Minnesota, December 2010, photo © 2010 by
QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The days are dark, the nights long. Five days until Winter Solstice. Holidays draw us to friends and family, gift giving, service work. I want to go inside. Reflective heat, ambient light. Darkroom blues. I have spent hours under red safelights in black and white darkrooms. What color is Joy?

At times when there is the least light, we need to find ways to tap more joy. I look to the small things. Sunrise, Tuesday morning. Snowstorm, Friday night. Digging out. Digging deep. An old recipe. A new flame. Joy takes many forms. Clay dangling from red string. One new liver. Two hibernating black bears. Three things I am grateful for.

Some are afraid to feel the full strength of Joy. The intensity makes them fearful. What if Joy leaves in the middle of the night. How will I fill the hole.

What brings you joy?

Joy is a giant taproot of swirling lava at the center of the Earth. Joy is a burning ember in the middle of an indigo night. Behind every Black Dog, Joy sits like the mountain.

Write I feel joy at the top of your Writing Practice notebook. Or sink into the underbelly — I don’t feel joy

Joy is, Joy is not. Ten minutes, Go!


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

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Orbs In The Barn

Orbs In The Barn, Glenwood, Minnesota, May 2006, photo © 2006-2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It’s Halloween, the time of year when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. Have you ever taken a photograph and were later surprised to find you had captured an orb? Orbs are small, floating, transparent balls of light, most times unexplainable in the context of the photograph. Some claim that orbs are the building bricks from which ghosts are formed.

Do you believe in ghosts? When I was in high school, we would drive around looking for abandoned buildings that might be haunted. We rarely saw anything supernatural and most times managed to scare ourselves silly. But in the years since, I have been visited by two ghosts. One was from my grandmother in Tennessee the night that she died. She came to see me in (what I thought) was a dream, and told me she loved me. The next day I called Mom to ask if Granny had passed away. She said, “Yes, how did you know?”

The second ghostly visit was from my friend Leslea not long after she died from pancreatic cancer. She appeared in my bedroom, pulled on my toe, and knocked a writing book off the shelf at 3am in the morning. It was one of those cover your head with the sheets moments. I didn’t want to see, but could not forget. There are many TV shows that deal with the paranormal these days. Ghost busters and ghost hunters who travel the world documenting the presence of ghosts. What are your ghost experiences?

In his new book Ghost Hunting — A Survivor’s Guide, John Fraser documents a brief history of ghost hunting and explores definitions of poltergeists, doppelgangers, animal ghosts, and crisis apparitions that occur at the point of death or near death of a loved one. Fraser has several chapters on methods of ghost hunting. He divides ghost hunting tools of the trade into scientific and low-tech. Many of the paranormal ghost hunters we hear of today are using high-tech, scientific methods.


High-Tech Ghost Hunting Equipment

  • EMF Meters — commonly called ghost detectors and used to measure electromagnetic fields of various frequencies. These devices measure fluctuations in electromagnetic energy in the environment. [Last week I heard a radio interview with a psychic that said many times EMF detectors are not useful because ghosts like to hang out where there is an abundance of electrical currents like airports or malls.]
  • Cameras — used in ghost hunting for well over 100 years, commonly to capture orbs or mists
  • Thermometers – traditional mainstay of a ghost hunter’s kit used to register changes in air temperature. Digital is the best today. Some use infrared thermometers for target spotting. The theory is that ghosts often suck up the warm energy around them, leaving cold spots where they hover or stand.
  • Tape Recorders — Ghosts and poltergeists often make audible sounds or electronic voice phenomena called EVP. You will hear EVP’s recorded with digital recorders in many of the ghost busting TV shows.
  • Camcorders – camcorders are placed in paranormal hot spots and later reviewed for images or disturbances
  • Night Vision Scopes — for open-air locations where mediums feel more comfortable operating in the darkness
  • Barometers & Motion Detectors — compact and digital, to measure changes in air pressure. Like EMF meters, barometers do not detect ghosts but indicate a change in the environment or warning of poltergeist activity.
  • Spirit Box — a regular portable AM/FM radio modified to continually scan up and down the dial without stopping. The radio produces small snippets of clearly distinguishable voices as it scans the stations, noises that are clearly not part of any broadcast. Many believe that the spirits, who lack a voice of their own, are able to harness and manipulate radio signals to give voice to their thoughts.


Low-Tech Ghost Hunting Equipment

  • Graph Paper — for drawing clear plans of the haunted site
  • Rulers or Tape Measures – used to measure distances of objects moved
  • Watches – digital and viewable in the dark for timing events, synchronized among investigators
  • Voltmeters – used to check electrical power faults and cuts
  • Strain Gauges – to measure the force it would take to open a door or drawer, or the weight of an object that has been moved
  • Magnifying Glasses — for closer viewing of evidence
  • Transparent Envelopes — safe place to store unusual objects collected
  • Flour – simple device for sealing off a room, sprinkling a large area, seeing if footprints are left by any intruders
  • Black Thread — for sealing rooms to detect and prevent hoaxes
  • Torches – to light dark ghost hunting corners, castles, and caves
  • Candles – for lighting and to detect air flow changes
  • Whistles – to call for help if needed. Can also use a two-way radio.
  • Survey Maps -- to document history of what the property may have been used for in the past
  • Chalk - to make temporary marks showing the location of objects before and after they have been moved


Many ghost hunters also use human sensitives, intuitives, psychics, or mediums to help detect paranormal activity. If you want to read more about ghost hunting, your local library is a great resource for books on the paranormal, including the newest from John Fraser. Get your ghost hunting kits ready because tonight is Halloween. We’ll have a fire in the fire ring and candy in hand, ready to stave off tricks in favor of treats.

Ghosts make for good Writing Practice too. Whether haunted by figurative ghosts or the real thing, there is juice in ghost writing. Write the word Ghosts at the top of your page — 10 minutes, Go!


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, October 31st, 2010

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Sunrise On Lake Michigan, Sheboygan County

Sunrise On Lake Michigan, Bob walking 10,000 steps on the beach, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, October 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Sitting, walking, writing with the Midwest Writing Group on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. This is the 7th time we’ve met. The first was October 2007 at McCreedy’s in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. Somewhere in the middle, there was Kansas City, Missouri. The last retreat was on Lake Pepin in Lake City, Minnesota.


We arrived on Thursday; the Moon was new. The mornings and afternoons are silent. Here’s our daily schedule:

  • Wake up in Silence.
  • 9am to Noon — Sit, walk, write.
  • Noon to 1pm — Lunch in Silence.
  • 1pm to 4pm — Free Time. Read, write, walk, sleep, stare out the window.
  • 4pm to 6pm — Sit, walk, write.
  • 6pm — Dinner. Free to talk and break bread.


 

Writing Home, Lake Michigan

Writing Home, Lake Michigan, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, October 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 


If you’d like to join us, here are the first 14 Writing Topics. During Day 1 of Sit, Walk, Write (Natalie Goldberg style) we wrote 14 practices at 10 minutes each:

  • Reading under a blanket
  • Fortunate life
  • Friend of the family
  • Piano lessons
  • I’m waiting for
  • Bits of garbage
  • Should I stay or should I go
  • I guess I’m doing alright
  • Walls
  • A path through the weeds
  • Cries for help
  • Don’t tell me it will be alright
  • Distractions
  • Luckiest person in the world


 

Sit, Walk, Write

Sit, Walk, Write, Lake Michigan, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, October 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 


Observations:

  • Took all of Day 1 to debrief & unwind from busyness
  • Travel days take a lot out of you
  • Resistance high on Day 2
  • Breathing deeper on Day 3
  • Staring at the lake calms me, blood pressure drops
  • Walking the beach spurs fresh creative ideas. I’m part of something bigger than me.
  • After 3 years, I feel comfortable & safe with these writers. We’ve worked out the logistics of living, eating, sleeping in close quarters.
  • Everyone holds the space
  • Grateful to the timekeeper who holds the structure
  • Writing about family, place, home, writing projects
  • Free time is essential. Sleep & rest without guilt is essential. Silence is essential.


Back next week. Get out your fast writing pens and spiral notebooks. We follow the Writing Practice rules. And try to Make Positive Effort For The Good. Sit, walk, write.


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, October 10th, 2010

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My Refrigerator

My Refrigerator, BlackBerry Shots, Golden Valley, Minnesota, September 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


To some, refrigerators are bare places, slick and spit-polish clean. Enamel, stainless steel, plastic. Avocado greens and lemon yellows in the 1970′s. Black, white, and stainless steel, the current aesthetic. For some, appliances are pieces of art — sleek, retro, places that make a statement through even curves and vintage hardware. In our house, the fridge is a place that collects — grocery lists, receipts, magnets, calendars, bits and pieces of our lives. One day, we realize the clutter for what it is, throw the valuable photos and magnets in a shoebox, and toss the rest. Until the cycle begins again.

The front of my refrigerator reflects a timeline of my life, something I call fridge typography. Magnets from Ocean City, Maryland, an old photo of Liz’s sister when she was a small girl, the Morton Salt Umbrella Girl, the official Geocaching logo, Lily and Hope black bear swag from our trip to the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota last July. There is a school photo of my niece, a postcard of Hershey Kisses I sent to Liz when I was in Pennsylvania in May, another of the World’s Largest Boot (size 638 1/2 D) sent to Liz by Bob (or was it Jude) when we were down near Red Wing, Minnesota for a writing retreat earlier this year.


Fridge Topography - 259/365

Fridge Typography, September 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


What does your fridge look like? Is the outside uncluttered and sparse? If so, open the door. What food do you have inside your refrigerator? Is it all fresh and ready to eat? Or are there a few rotten items to be tossed. What about the freezer? Do you have old-style vintage refrigerator coils (remember what it used to be like to defrost condenser coils)? Or is yours state of the art, energy efficient, humming along quietly in the night.




Fifteen minutes should do it. Or if you’re on a roll, go for 20. Get out your fast writing pens and Writing Practice notebook. Jot down My Refrigerator, and Go!




-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, September 19th, 2010

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Scar Geography, Burn Scar From An Art Project, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

Scars may be an odd topic, I know. But scars, random warrior marks across body (and mind), remind us that we’ve lived a full life. A nick, a cut, a slice. I remember when I was a young girl, my mother sliced her finger open while peeling potatoes; the wound took several stitches and weeks to heal. And when I was about six, my young brother fell off his tricycle while standing on the seat, reaching for a pickle jar resting on the brick window ledge of our carport. There was blood everywhere; it scared me to death.

Scars have a long memory. They follow some kind of trauma in a life. Here is a little scar geography from the years that I have lived:

 

#1 — Index finger in the crease above the knuckle. I was sharpening dental tools in the late 70′s, when a blade caught on a grinding wheel and popped up into the air. I watched in slow motion; gravity took its course and the steel tip landed in my finger. (Occupational hazard of the dental tool sharpener.)  – Montana

#2 — Middle finger, second crease above the knuckle. While performing the perfect high dive at a pool party (showing off for my high school friends) I didn’t realize how shallow the deep end was. Bam! scraped my knuckles on the bottom and came up bleeding. Not cool. – Pennsylvania

#3 — Inside wrist, right side, a burn scar shaped like a lop-sided heart. I was helping an art school friend paint scalding hot bees wax on her senior project, a huge sculpture made of all natural materials. She’d heat up the dark brown bees wax in an old electric skillet her grandmother gave her and slather it across branches of wood. Memories of art school. — Minnesota

#4 — Inside of left calf - a light burn scar shaped like the edge of the tailpipe I brushed against when stepping off the saddle of my uncle’s Honda. I was about 13 and asked if he’d take me on a ride across Pennsylvania back roads around East Berlin. He forgot to tell me the first rule of the road about motorcycles – always step off the side without the 500-degree tailpipe. (Ironically, it’s the same day I fell in love with motorcycle riding.) – Pennsylvania



Do you have scars on your body, the kind of unexpected life happenings that leave a little mark? Or maybe you’ve had surgery under the knife (before the laser) and have a long zipper down your abdomen or across your right knee. My brother has had two liver transplants and I am awestruck by what he has endured, evidenced by the long scars down his chest. He recently became a candidate for a third transplant, and the last time I was home, he joked that he was going to tattoo a dotted line down his chest – - – - Cut Here.

Scars can also be psychological and emotional. Childhood trauma, abuse, post traumatic stress, or scars associated with cultural rites of passage. Stressful life events become markers, cairns on the journey. Scars provide a rich vein of material to be excavated. In your next Writing Practice, follow the scars across your body. They contain deep memories and feelings, a topographical map through the past.

Scars — 10 minutes, Go!

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From Dad, excerpt from a two-page letter that my dad sent to me when I was 17, November 22, 1978, image © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





From my Writing Practice on “Be Impeccable with your Word,” the first agreement of don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements:

Dad was impeccable with his word. Words were important to him. They still are. He still wants to be heard. When I was a teenager and unwilling to listen, he wrote his words down in two or three letters he then slipped under the closed door of my bedroom or left on the kitchen table for me to open after he left for work. He was like Felix Unger in some ways, a tidy man with small and precise handwriting. His handwriting is shaky now, but then his writing looked like a professional cursive font.

The letters he wrote on yellow legal pads, and so he fit a lot of words on them. He told me the things he had tried to say to me but that I would shut down. What was important to him, the things he wanted to pass on, the wisdom he wanted to impart. He worried about me, the friends I had chosen, my boyfriend. He acknowledged that even though I had many bad habits, I was still keeping up my grades, and for that he was grateful.

He did pass something on to me, didn’t he? His honesty with words. That’s a powerful gift.





Thanks, Dad. I listen to you now.



-Related to posts PRACTICE: Be Impeccable With Your Word – 15min and WRITING TOPIC — THE FOUR AGREEMENTS

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By Judith Ford
 
 

You’re Invited, lang•widge, March 27, 2010, Gallery Neptune in Bethesda, Maryland.




Poetry is a lot like music. Music evokes visual images; visual art can stimulate poems. Read that backwards and it’s true that way, too.

Last March, while visiting a friend in DC, I had the opportunity to experience all three — music, my friend’s paintings, and a spontaneous poetry happening — mixed together for one entertaining evening. The event: lang•widge. The setting: Gallery Neptune in Bethesda, Maryland.

My friend, artist Freya Grand, paints landscapes. Not your ordinary landscapes. Landscapes filtered through Freya’s vision and open to interaction with the viewer. In Freya’s words, “Painting landscape begins as an internal process. As in abstraction, forms transmit a mysterious secret life, exert a presence.”

Presence was abundant on March 27 at Gallery Neptune, even before the rest of the evening’s events unfolded.  I’ve always had my own strong responses to Freya’s work, partly because I’ve traveled with her to some of the locations she later painted. More because her work is emotional, full of motion and light. Like me, the lang•widge participants responded in their own unique ways.

So here’s how it went: A few weeks before lang•widge, Freya and gallery owner Elyse Harrison asked jazz musician Steven Rogers to preview the paintings and compose short pieces of music in response. Once everyone had had a chance to walk around and see all the paintings (munch on cheese and crackers, drink wine), we were asked to gather in front of a podium and listen to a short poetry reading by Charlie Jensen, poet and director of The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, and the poet, Reb Livingston.








            



                            



                                       


Works by Freya Grand, Rock at Low Tide, 48″ x 60″, 2008, Burning Fields, 30″ x 30″, 2009, Cotopaxi, 48″ x 60″, 2006, and Fog, Benbulben, 30″ x30″, 2010, paintings © 2006-2010 by Freya Grand. All rights reserved.




Suitably warmed-up, we were each given a clipboard, a few sheets of paper, and a pencil. As Steven Rogers’ techno-jazz music played, we looked at the paintings again and quickly jotted down short lines. Whatever came to mind.

I was surprised by how much I liked the music. I am not a big jazz fan, but looking at Freya’s work and listening to this weird contemporary music, I found myself enjoying the way the visual and musical bits blended together. Whatever it was I wrote in response — I didn’t preserve any of it —  was full of the light and movement I’ve always seen in my friend’s work.  Hope, change, powerful natural forces, awe, wonder. 

When the four short pieces of music had finished, we reassembled in front of the podium. Volunteers did most of the reading, but first Charlie Jensen and Reb Livingston demonstrated the technique. They chose two from a diverse collection of colored dice. The number rolled determined the number of pieces of paper to be read together to create a spontaneous poem.

The results were surprising, to say the least. Where I had seen light and life, others had seen darkness and death, despair and violence. Sexuality. New life forms. Being lost, being found. Memories of blankets, clouds, and chaos.


 
 

During lang•widge, poets Charles Jensen and Reb Livingston explain the process, draw poem pieces, then read the resulting poetry, photos © 2010 by Judith Ford. All rights reserved.



Here are some of my favorite lines:

smiley in foam, red glee

his daughter in a box, pushed out to sea

I’ve made a mistake coming here

I’ll never eat butter cream frosting again




When my husband, Chris, who loves to perform for an audience, volunteered, things got even stranger. He happened to pick a very long series of lines that were written in five different languages. Chris speaks nothing but English. His courageous attempts to pronounce Spanish, Italian, French, German, and, I think, Swedish, were sidesplitting.

Afterward Chris sought out the writer of those lines, and, yes, she did speak all those languages. She told Chris he’d done a pretty good job at guessing the pronunciations.

I sought out Freya. “Did you realize how much pain and despair was hiding in your paintings?” I asked. Freya is not prone to darkness or despair. She told me she was actually more surprised by the butter cream frosting than the pain. She said something like, “People project into my work whatever is up for them at the present moment.”

Not sure about that butter cream.



Freya Grand and Chris Ford, photo ©
2010 by Judith Ford. All rights reserved.




So here’s an idea:  How about trying a little mini da-da poetry writing sans Steven Rogers’ music? Take a look at any of the Freya Grand paintings in this post (or visit her website). Pick out a piece of music you currently like a lot. While the music plays, quickly, without much thought, jot down five (or so) lines or phrases.

Email them to me at pinkeggs@gmail.com.  After two weeks or so (about August 9) I’ll randomly pick out lines, type them in the order I’ve picked, and post them here in the comments section. Let’s see what we come up with.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Here are two poems created during the lang•widge event; these are also posted on The Writer’s Center website.




1.



this is reversal

clouds coming up through earth’s crust

all my orange drizzles around in dust

I fly over this, I needn’t touch down

Earth is melting

manna comes down

my wings are lifted by

heat from the ground

Lift off!

Earth Burnt and Fractured

Evaporated Anger

Unexpressed Blindness

earth’s breath

greeny pastures of ooze

trudging uphill I see my shadow and a whale

I’m near a synthetic ocean

one that’s flat and even dry

cured epoxy cement

fake lily sky

but here’s where I swim

and here’s where I’ll die

your piano carries me anywhere

you play

standing stones

scottish shore

volcanic mist

walk to the top edge

as above, so below

coolness rising

You and me

never the same

mountain ranges between us

ocean depths……storms

air that we breathe

the only media

that unites

I lived there so long the ocean was like a person to me.

A giant meatball rolling towards its destiny.





2.



East coast sunsets

are less brilliant

but the sand between my toes

feels more like home.

Scary golf course littered laced

and smoking with traps sandy

silken tofu nowhere is there a

flag or a hole to crawl into

Dark fog charcoal wall

surrounding me give me grass

but it wriggles this grass

maybe the rocks will protect me

marshmallow antlers and steamy pea soup

There’s a smiley

in the foam

red glee

misty canyon aerie wheat

volcanic atmosphere rock strewn beach

geyser rivulets

yves tanguy

shadows

cliff hanger

steam

heat

his daughter in a box, pushed out to sea

wash of creation

thrum

pure thin air

Moses parts a red and vanillas sea

A single, persistent surfer.

I’d made a mistake coming here.

bleed





___________________________________________________________________________________________

Judith Ford is a psychotherapist and writer who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was red Ravine’s very first guest writer, with her 25 Reasons I Write post. Judith’s other pieces on red Ravine include Mystery E.R., I Write Because, and PRACTICE – Door – 20min.

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Northern Burr Oak - 333 Years Old - 192/365, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Northern Burr Oak – 333 Years Old – 192/365, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


On Sunday I joined over 100 people in Riverside Park near the Franklin Avenue Bridge to pay tribute to the oldest known tree in Minneapolis. It is estimated that the Northern Burr Oak dates back to 1677. In the wake of the oak’s recent death, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation will be cutting it down in the Fall. We listened to sculptors, poets, neighborhood kids, and Cancer survivors who found solace in being near this tree. It felt to me like I was standing on hallowed ground. The tree has outlived all the humans who have ever set foot here. Imagine what she has seen.

In this photograph from 1941, the ancient Northern Burr Oak seems healthy and happy, her giant crown holding court over the Mississippi River Gorge.  Here is an excerpt from documentation at the site of the gathering:


IMG00354-20100711-1942.jpgTHE ANCIENT OAK TREE  — Perhaps the oldest living thing in Minneapolis is the huge Northern Burr Oak (Quercus macrocarpa var. olivaeformia) that graces the west bank of the Mississippi in Riverside Park, about two blocks above the Franklin Avenue bridge, an enduring sentinel at the point where River Road West descends down into a most picturesque stretch of river gorge. Estimated by various botanists to be all the way from 150 to 700 years old, this valiant aborigine stands 58 feet tall, with a branch spread of 66 feet and a trunk girth of 14 feet at a point two feet above the ground. Symmetrically beautiful, this “first citizen” of Minneapolis, surviving the storms, drought, and fires that during the years have scourged the area of others of its kind, still remains a picture of physical strength and majestic beauty. Many are those who periodically come to Franklin Terrace to admire this grand old tree and to marvel at its great antiquity. In his little book, Riverside Reveries, published in 1928, Dr. Otto F. Schussler paints a beautiful word picture of this beloved old tree that “with a quiet dignity unsurpassed, and a perseverance unfaltering through the years continued to grow in size, in strength and ever-increasing beauty.”

-from the book Minneapolis Park System, 1941, by Theodore Wirth


IMG00318-20100711-1831.jpg

As to the fate of the tree, opinions were mixed. Should it be cut down and turned into sculptures or pins? Should it remain as it stands, a living monument to all it has seen? Should the tree be felled and replaced with sapling Burr Oaks? What is the best way to honor the life and death of an ancient tree? Let it stand or let it fall.

After I returned home, I started to think about all the posts ybonesy and I have done about trees over the years. There is the giant cottonwood in the courtyard of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, and the Lawrence Tree that Georgia O’Keeffe painted just outside of Taos, New Mexico. ybonesy has written about the cottonwood in her backyard and the carving of the Virgen de Guadalupe in a cottonwood in Albuquerque. She also wrote a piece about the art of Patrick Dougherty who uses the limbs, trunks, and canopies of trees to build his installations.

One year on my travels to Georgia, I visited a ginkgo in Augusta that was supposedly planted in 1791 for the visit of George Washington. And last year, for the first time, I stood under the giant pine where my paternal grandmother is buried. Our guest Linda Weissinger Lupowitz writes about New Mexico cottonwoods in What’s Happened To The Corrales Bosque? And in Fourteen Dozen Roses: The World As The Jungle It Is, Erin Robertson shares her poetry and explains how her tattoo of a ginkgo leaf makes her feel closer to her grandfather.

What do trees mean to you? Is there an oak you visit that brings you peace? Do you like to write under a grove of Ponderosa pines, sketch the bark of the ash in your front yard, run your fingers across the groove of a cottonwood’s skin. Have you lost a tree that was important to you. Are there trees that make you feel closer to home. Get out a fast writing pen and spiral notebook and get started on a Writing Practice My Favorite Tree. Ten minutes, Go!

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In 1997, Toltec nagual (shaman) don Miguel Ruiz published a small book called The Four Agreements. The book laid out in practical terms four agreements one can make with oneself, a code of conduct to live by to transform one’s life. The idea is that these four agreements would replace or at least augment the many agreements we’ve carried with us since we were children—many harmful to our well-being—about our self-worth, our abilities, and life in general.

I learned about the book in 2000, after a particularly difficult year. I was on the brink of leaving my career. I was struggling in my marriage and with being a mother. I was unhappy and didn’t know what to do about it. My boss at the time, with whom my relationship was all but broken, gave me the book. She had just returned from a short sabbatical from work. She seemed transformed and credited the change to the wisdom of Ruiz. She handed out copies of the book to members of her staff, and then within a matter of a few weeks or months, she retired.

I remember when she gave me the book, at first I saw it as an olive branch. I had at one point before my boss left on her sabbatical become so enraged at her over matters at work that I let loose with a verbal assault that surprised even me. In my younger days I had the mouth of a sailor, but I rarely let my emotions get out of hand. Not so that year. I dropped the F-bomb on my boss like it was going out of style. In hindsight, it was amazing that she didn’t fire me for insubordination. That she could give me any gift at all seemed hugely generous.

Later, when I opened the book and saw what it contained, I took the gift as an insult. A category tag on the back of the book identified it as Personal Growth / Self-Help. I felt my former boss was trying to tell me that that I needed help; I was immature enough then to believe that I was perfectly fine and that she was the one who needed help. Reluctantly I read the book.


Fast forward to 2010. I think about my former boss now and again. I know now that not only did I in fact need help those many years ago, The Four Agreements was exactly the right kind of help. Had I been living them at the time, I would not have made the assumption that my former boss was giving me the book as way of trying to tell me something.

Recently I had the opportunity, thanks to the generosity of my good friend Patty, to see don Miguel Ruiz in Albuquerque and hear him and his son, don Jose Ruiz, talk about a new book they jointly wrote called The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery. This was the first time I’d seen either Ruiz in person. I didn’t take notes during the packed talk. I sat in the back of the Unitarian church where they spoke. I listened with an open heart. After the talk, the elder Ruiz left (we learned he had only partial heart functioning after a near-fatal heart attack in 2002) while the younger stayed in the church and signed books.


don jose ruiz and pattydon jose ruiz and roma

light and love, photos of Patty (left) and Roma with don Jose Ruiz, emanating light and love, May 19, 2010, Albuquerque, photos © 2010, all rights reserved.




Don Miguel Ruiz came from a family of healers. His mother was a curandera and his grandfather a nagual. From the book jacket of The Four Agreements, “The family anticipated that Miguel would embrace their centuries-old legacy of healing and teaching, and carry forward the esoteric Toltec knowledge. Instead, distracted by modern life, Miguel chose to attend medical school and become a surgeon.”

After nearly losing his life in a car accident, Ruiz devoted himself to becoming a nagual. He has passed on the knowledge to his son, Jose Luis, and together they are promoting The Fifth Agreement. I am reading The Fifth Agreement now, and already it has hit home for me the wisdom and power of that original small book.

I have in small but perceptible ways been transformed by Ruiz’s four agreements. They’re not easy to live by. Some are harder than others. Some I recall daily. Here they are, with a short excerpt about each:



be impeccable with your word


Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.



don’t take anything personally


Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.



don’t make assumptions


Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.



always do your best


Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.





Perhaps you are familiar with don Miguel Ruiz and his books of wisdom, or maybe this is the first time you’ve heard of any of this. In either case, reflect on the four agreements and think about what they mean to you. Write each agreement at the top of your notebook and then do a 10- or 15-minute Writing Practice on each one. If this is your first exposure to this Toltec wisdom, buy the books or check them out from your local library and take the time to learn more about them and their author. Let us know if your writings about the agreements resonate with the writings in the books.

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el ojo en la mano

el ojo en la mano, icon of the eye in the hand (called “Hamsa” in Judaism) believed to ward off Evil Eye, doodle © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





It’s that time again. ybonesy and I are heading out for our annual 2 week blogcation. She’s got the Corrales Art Studio Tour coming up this weekend. And I’m gearing up for Art-A-Whirl 2010 at the Casket Arts Building, May 14th-16th. So, for the next couple of weeks, we’re allowing ourselves to be free from the pressure of posting on the blog. red Ravine turned three a few weeks ago, and in blog years, that’s a long time. We find it’s good for us to take a break from the work of blogging, to relax, and enjoy the hiatus from electronics.

We may check in once in a while. Or do a spontaneous post or two, but we’ll still technically be on vacation. Taking time to refill the well gives us a chance to revisit our goals for red Ravine and fine tune our vision. We hope to come back fresh and revitalized. In the meantime, Writing Practice goes on. ybonesy and I write together weekly in an online group. And I just returned from a retreat with my Midwest Writing Group down by Lake Pepin, where I nearly filled an entire spiral notebook.

I thought it would be fun to leave you with a few of the Writing Topics we wrote about last week in southern Minnesota (or you can choose from the Topics we’ve posted on red Ravine over the years). Thanks for reading and visiting red Ravine. Keep the pen moving, and we’ll see you in a few weeks. Ten minutes, Go!



Writing Topics


On The Lake
Blue Hippo
A Childhood Dream
I Am At Peace When
All My Life, I’ve Tried To
Mississippi
What Holds Me Back
Driving My Car On A Lonely Stretch
My First Good Kiss
I Want
I’m Afraid Of (or About, or When)
In The Still Of The Night
In The Darkest Part Of My Heart
In The Garden
My Favorite Sandwich
Sitting Still By A Lake
The Tears Of A Clown
Why Write?
One Room Cabin In Tennessee
No Topic
Plaid Wool Blanket

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