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Posts Tagged ‘listening’

Mr. Stripeypants wraps his feline body, a curled half moon in front of the space heater. Liz is still sleeping. Out on the deck, the bear chimes I purchased in Ely last July ripple with the wind. The sky is dark. It’s 50 degrees. Later in the day, the wind will pick up, the air will drop into the twenties. November darkness refuels my passion for the Arts. It’s a chance to reflect, to take stock of my life. Not the long term dreams and goals I harnessed as a twenty-year-old. But the smiling clerk in the grocery line at Byerly’s, lunch alone at Como Park, the smile in my lover’s eyes — minutes that end up creating years. I am grateful for each moment.

I used to dread change. I thought it meant the loss of loved ones, the fleeing of love, abandonment. Now I welcome what is fresh and new, the unplanned. Change means I don’t have to cling to what I have lost. Change means I don’t have to stay stuck where I am — emotionally, spiritually, physically. Change means I am willing to face the future. Change means I don’t have to like something or someone to accept them, or forgive. Change means the body breaks down, the mind remains stubborn, the heart swells with appreciation. Change. I am grateful for change.

Thank you to family, friends, readers, teachers, patrons of the Arts. Because of you, my life feels rich and full. Happy Thanksgiving.



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Gratitude Writing Practice 2012


A is for altitude, the steady climb before the peregrine’s dive. B, let me not be brittle, but open to the opportunities life has to offer. C is for centered, concrete, creative, cushion. D, that last cool drink of water from a mountain stream. E, grateful for all the Elizabeths in my life. F will always be for family and friendships, for those who have stuck with me, even when I hit my bottom. G, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. So much to be thankful for. H reminds me not to hurry. Slow down. Watch for the edges. Hypocrisy, emerald hedges, the hollow bone. I, irresistible words. Letters, dots, dashes, the incurable love affair with language. J is for justice, judges, journey work. The realization that I can’t control what is just and fair. Acceptance of the slow turn of arbitration. Solomon. Did he have it right? K is for the keys to the passage, low island reef at high tide. Keystone, quoin, foundation, groundwork. L for the lionhearted, those with courage, grace under pressure, the fearless who inspire me. M, morgue, decay, melodrama, the things we leave behind. Laurie Anderson reminded me, it is in times of death that we experience the most intense feelings of love. Anyway, N is for nesting, nudging noxious thoughts away, purging what is not useful to living a full-hearted life. O, owing a debt of gratitude to those who serve humanity. Out-of-the-way places where I can be my true self, unmasked, unafraid of a face-to-face with my own shortcomings. P is for play, paper, Mr. StripeyPants, Kiev, parables forming nuggets of truth. Q, there are Questions, there can never be too many questions. Quandaries, crossroads, quagmires, quests. A call to action. R, rest, solitude, unconnected, unavailable, alone. Remember, reverberate, don’t be too rigid. S, steady, slow, steadfast. Grant me the serenity. Sugar, shug. T, the topple of empires built on shifting sands. Trounced by the tough and true-hearted. U is for unburden, unbroken, unbound. Underdog, under the weather, underestimated. V, vivacious, high-spirited, don’t play your cards so close to the vest. W, the winsome and wise do not dismiss what is wistful and wintry. A windfall comes your way. X is for seeing through the xenophobic, just in the nick of time. Y, yearning for solitude, receiving a yen, unwilling to be the yes woman, corralling the yowling, howling courage of my youth. Z, life is a zigzag of faithful moments laced with bad decisions, and wretched zaniness. A short walk through zoological gardens of wonder, a long conversation. Listen. Listen.


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-related to posts: Gratitude Mandala — Giving Thanks, This Thanksgiving Weekend, Make A Gratitude Journal, A Simple Gratitude List, gratitude haiku (orange), The ABC’s Of A Prosperous 2008 – Gratitude, Feelin’ Down For The Holidays? Make A Gratitude List

-posted on red Ravine, Thanksgiving Day, November 22nd, 2012

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RABBIT JPG 2011-07-10 09.57.54 TRIM AUTO c

Ears Still To The Lonely Wind — Mandala For Rabbit – 26/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 26, July 10th, 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Medium: Drawn by hand with a black Staedtler archival pigment ink Fineliner on Canson Mix Media XL Series 98lb drawing paper, collage paper. Colored & collaged with DecoColor Glossy Oil Base Paint Markers, Caran D’Ache NeoColor II Water Soluble Wax Crayons, Sharpie Medium Point Oil-Based Opaque Paint Markers, Lineco Archival PVA Adhesive, archival card stock paper. Gogyohka & haiga by QuoinMonkey. Photograph taken with a Samsung DROID.


It must be a plentiful year for Rabbit. I see her everywhere on my journeys across the Twin Cities. If you look to the spiritual aspects of Rabbit, she represents calling out Fear—looking it right in the eye. It is said that if we focus on people, places, and things we fear, we draw them closer to us. The very act of ruminating on what we are afraid of creates opportunities to learn the lessons conjured by those fears.

It’s a good time for me to pay attention to Rabbit. Lotus wrote the poem Becoming a Rabbit -26/52 for one of the BlackBerry 52 Jump-Offs in our collaboration. I pulled in a line from her poem that spoke to me, wrote a gogyohka, and scripted it around the edge of the circle that would become a haiga:




Sidewinding summer rain
plays hide and seek with the sky.
Rabbit holds her ground ---
blades of mint awash in shadow,
ears still to the lonely wind.




I want to carry my Rabbit fetish from New Mexico in my pocket for the rest of July; there are challenges ahead of me with outcomes out of my control. Is it on the dresser with the other animals? She was a gift from friends, hand carved, and sold at one of the pueblos. I have carried the balsa Rabbit for a long, long time. To help ease my fear.


Rabbit may signal:
  • feeling frozen in place from trying to find resolution to a situation you are unable to resolve
  • being too focused on the future, trying to control what has not yet taken form
  • a need to write down your fears
  • space to stop, rest, reevaluate
  • time to wait for bigger, outside forces to move again
  • opportunities to reframe the way you see your present set of circumstances
  • the need to take a deep breath, burrow into a safe space, & release your fears



Lucky for me, Fear is a universal emotion. There is not a person on Earth that has not experienced Fear. I read it in the Writing Practices of friends. We talk about it over birthday dinners. I see it at the state, local, and federal government levels. I read about it in the news every day.

Naming my fears helps to dissipate anxiety I feel about things I can’t control. Rabbit helps me remember to breathe. And to listen for answers. Ears still to the lonely wind.



-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, July 10th, 2011, with gratitude to Lotus for the inspiration

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.

Rabbit Mandala: Ears Still To The Lonely Wind (Detail) -related to posts: Flying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain, Shadow Of A Dragonfly, Dragonfly Wings — It Is Written In The Wind, Dragon Fight — June Mandalas, EarthHealer — Mandala For The Tortoise, ode to a crab (haiku & mandala), Eye Of The Dragon Tattoo

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By Bob Chrisman


The question strikes me as amusing because I wonder how many times I’ve been on the edge of dying and didn’t realize it. How about the time the gray BMW swung around the corner as it turned left? The outside mirror on the right side caught my open coat and flung it in the air. Even the driver thought he had hit me because he stopped, at least the brake lights flickered before he drove away. But the question is about a time I knew I was close to death.

In college I ran with a group of theater people. My friend, Margie (not her real name), lived at home in the suburbs with her family: Mom, Dad, and a younger brother and sister. The parents regularly invited us to their house for taco night, a family and friends feast of food and laughter. One night in February I left their house to drive back into the city. I felt so lonely and depressed as I headed home in my VW bug.

I took a shortcut down a curving, two-lane road to the main highway. At the beginning of every curve I pushed the accelerator hard. Looking back, I may have wanted to die at that moment. My friend and her family showed me what I would never have in the way of a warm, loving family.

The car entered one curve. I caught the sheen of ice on the highway. Too late I took my foot off the accelerator and stomped on the brake. The car spun around like a yoyo, first one way and then the other.

I left my body. From the backseat of the VW, I watched my physical body frantically try to regain control of the spinning car by turning the steering wheel. Finally “I” gave up. As I watched the accident unfold, I said, “Oh, crap. I’m gonna die.” The car ran up the side of the hill and turned over on the left side. In that instant, I found myself in my body watching the asphalt speed past my driver’s side window.

The car ran into a ditch, stopped and flipped upright. I stumbled out into the cold, dark night on a lonely road in a wooded area. A young couple, on their way to a movie, stopped and made me climb into their car. They took me to a pay phone so I could call the police. When we arrived back at the wreck, they insisted on staying until the police arrived. A tow truck pulled my car from the ditch. The officers told me I could drive it home and I did.

I always remember that night whenever I drive a car. The accident made me more cautious about my driving. To have death come so close made me appreciate how quickly life can be snatched away.



-Related to topic post WRITING TOPIC – 3 QUESTIONS. [NOTE: This is the first of three questions mentioned by actor and writer Anna Deavere Smith in an interview with Bill Moyers (see link). She talked about the questions in the context of interviewing people and listening to them. The three questions came from a linguist Smith met at a cocktail party in 1979; the questions were, according to the linguist, guaranteed to break the patterns and change the way people are expressing themselves. QuoinMonkey, ybonesy, and frequent guest writer Bob Chrisman take on the three questions by doing a Writing Practice on each.]

-Also related to post PRACTICE: Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by ybonesy)

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I have a tracheotomy scar that I got when I was 18 months. Mom said I used to get croup and that this particular time my croup turned into pneumonia. By the time they realized how bad it was, I was turning blue. They rushed me to the emergency room, and Mom says that a little Mexican doctor, a woman, performed the emergency tracheotomy on me. They kept me in an oxygen tent for days, and Mom said that’s when my hair went curly. She said I looked like an angel under the plastic of the tent.

Later, as a young girl, any time I got fever, I would have dreams where it seemed angels were hovering in the room with me. I could hear people talk, my brother and sisters, but it was the underwater sound of voices. And I felt like there were other children with me, except these children were calm and light. Those were the angels who visited any time I was sick, and I often wonder now if they related at all to the time I almost died.

Also, in my mind, I picture that little Mexican woman. The doctor. Mom and Dad had great pride in saying that it was a Mexican woman who saved my life. Mom’s grandmother on her dad’s side was a little dark woman with a long thick braid. Mom talks about how as a child she would go in and see her grandmother, who was sick in bed. Her name was Elena, and Mom said she’d be in a white bed dress, sitting up, her gray-black hair pulled back in a thick braid. Mom says that she thinks Elena had Indian in her, Spanish and Indian, which is Mexican. And somehow, when Mom talks about the Mexican doctor, I often think of Elena as being that woman. She wasn’t, of course, but that’s who I picture saving my life.

The other thing that I picture is the doctor puncturing my throat with a pair of scissors. I don’t know why I see that, but I do, and it’s comical now to think that someone would take whatever object they could find, a good pair of steel scissors with black handles, and poke them into my throat to open up a passageway.

And I see myself under the tent afterward, sweaty from the oxygen and heat that builds up. And then like when the house falls on the Wicked Witch of the West and Dorothy takes off the witch’s ruby slippers, and all of sudden the witch’s feet curl and retract under the house, this is how I picture my curls happening. Mom and Dad are staring at me in the tent, my hair is wet but straight, and suddenly the entire head of hair starts to curl into ringlets. I picture my parents’ eyes getting big and the two of them looking at each other, incredulous.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for my parents to almost lose a child. Mom says that after that, she didn’t like to take me out. She didn’t like it when people with colds came over. She tried to keep me covered and away from germs. Back then we had relatives visiting all the time. And neighbors, too. We were a big family, social. All my sisters’ friends would come to our house to play and hang out. And Mom’s friends, too. On Sundays my Aunt Barbara and her eight kids would often drive up from a town just south of us. Eventually Mom must have just let it go, let me be a normal kid again. What do they say? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.




-Related to topic post WRITING TOPIC – 3 QUESTIONS. [NOTE: This is the first of three questions mentioned by actor and writer Anna Deavere Smith in an interview with Bill Moyers (see link). She talked about the questions in the context of interviewing people and listening to them. The three questions came from a linguist Smith met at a cocktail party in 1979; the questions were, according to the linguist, guaranteed to break the patterns and change the way people are expressing themselves. QuoinMonkey, ybonesy, and frequent guest writer Bob Chrisman take on the three questions by doing a Writing Practice on each.]

-Also related to PRACTICE: Hair – 15min

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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

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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.

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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.

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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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Black Beatles box, wax masters
“Listen, do you want to know
a secret?” 

Listen.

Fat, fur-covered lynx tail
in a white Muriel cigar box,
1950’s retro.

Sting of the Lady Remington,
my grandmother used to take her time
shaving silky legs. Skinny. Electric.
Tucked in a bedroom drawer.

Great Gray flew away
home, February 8th,
two years ago. I cried.
4th Step shifts, 5th Step blunders.

Your soft blue eyes,
clear and penetrating
peering out from under the mistletoe.

Silk scarf from Nepal,
orange pick-up sticks,
blanched peaches, figs
from Aunt Cassie’s squat tree.

Mouths of dark caves,
cinnamon toast, fresh
with jagged bite marks.

Boogie board spinning
off the white-tipped Atlantic;
underbelly meets undertow,
scrapes away the shallow.

Dirt under fingernails
after gardening in the sun.
August, where is she?

Frozen under a snow-covered lamp
shaped like a pagoda.

Ravenous Rebel, surly Savage,
hundreds of cc’s, spitting
dust devils into the river.

Easy rider.
Easy. Ride her.

Buddha in Amy Kristine’s
storefront long defunct;
thick bolt of volcanic rock
shaped like a godless god.

Crusty face, ripe body
three days of writing,
never wanting to stop.

Working, tapping, running
full speed
into that long black night.

“All this or something better,”
spewing from moon glossed lips
blind serenity;

the ache
I treasure most.

A far-fetched promise
that peace might spring
from the blundering loins
of star-crossed humanity.

Sign says, “You got to
turn the other cheek.
Sorry – happiness
not guaranteed.”

I am left sucking acceptance
through a firestorm of minutiae;
memories frozen in time,

lightweight, rewritable
buried treasure -
flash drive of the mind.

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

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