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Atlanta Airport - 1952, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved

Atlanta Airport – 1952, family postcard, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I’ve been thinking about the lost art of writing postcards and letters. A few weeks ago, while staying at my uncle’s place in Georgia, I began the long process of scanning old photographs and historical documents for the family archives. I asked my uncle if he would pull out his collection of memorabilia. He showed up the next day with stacks of old black and white photographs. And a wide, faded brown shoebox containing bundles of newspaper clippings, letters, and postcards.

Most of the postcards were to or from my Great, Great Aunt Cassie. My Great, Great Uncle Claude had worked for the Georgia Railroad and they traveled a lot on their vacations. But there was one in particular that caught my eye – a postcard that Mom’s older brother, Jack, had sent her in high school. The postmark was July 24th, 1952. A postcard stamp was only 1 cent back then. One cent.

My Uncle Jack would have been 16 at the time. He must have been on vacation with relatives. On the front of the postcard, where we might now see a digital photograph, was a 4-color illustration of the Atlanta Municipal Airport, the same airport Liz flew out of on her way back to Minnesota from Georgia in July.

In scratchy, adolescent handwriting, he wrote:



Dear Amelia,

I am having a good time here. I have met a lot of girls here and I have
had 6 dates since I got here. I’ve got another one tomorrow night and
Saturday. We are coming home Sunday. We have an air conditioner
here and it is cool.

Love,

Jack



I called Mom after I got back to Minnesota and asked her if she minded if I posted Jack’s card. She lost her brother in 1954, two years after he sent the postcard, only days before I was born. It was the year he graduated from high school. He had been ill with mono but wanted to go and celebrate with his friends anyway. They went swimming at Clarks Hill. He drowned on what is reported to have been a second swim across the lake. His body, still recovering and weak from the mono, must have given out mid-swim.

Mom said she didn’t have any qualms about me sharing the postcard. “No, I don’t mind if you post it,” she said. “We’re open about things like that.” Then, in one last thought, she sounded a little sad. “What did it say?” she asked.

I told her he wrote about what any teenage boy would write about: girls. But what struck me the most was seeing his handwriting; it was over 50 years old. And that he took the time to write, to send Mom a few lines letting her know he was thinking of her.



Dear Amelia, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.       Dear Amelia, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



When we were on St. Simons Island, I looked high and low for postcards to send to friends. I finally found a rack in the corner of a novelty store along the main drag near the lighthouse. It was the same place Liz and I got our soft cotton Georgia T-shirts. But then, there were no stamp machines that sold postcard stamps. And we never made it to the spot on the island where the  post office was located. So I waited until I was back in Augusta to mail them.

Postcards are becoming a thing of the past. But I have one writing friend who sent postcards every week as part of her practice last year. And another who sends herself postcards when she goes out on the road to write. She says she has many insights while traveling, jots them down on a postcard, and mails them to herself. After returning home, it centers her to read them – a gift to her creative self.



I am running into handwritten letters at every turn. Boxes turned up in storage with letters from my mother and grandmother. And I’m midway through the letters of Flannery O’Connor; you wouldn’t believe how much I am learning about this great Southern writer (and the South) from reading her letters. Should I begin writing letters again?

I am getting closer. Last Saturday, Liz went to three garage sales; at one she bought me an antique Royal portable typewriter. I started using it that day. At the same sale (it was run by an artist/photographer; she took me back with her later), we bought some vintage vinyl for a quarter a piece, and three great literature books for 50 cents each. One of them was Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera. It is full of her letters.

Later that day at the studio, I started thumbing through Frida’s biography; sticking out of the middle section, was a faded postcard sent from Colombia. The front of the postcard has a photograph of a Cuna woman in traditional garb. A small 2 was circled at the top; it was the second of a series of three. The title, URABA (ANTIOQUIA) COLOMBIA — India Cuna, was in block print. The handwriting was loopy cursive, written in Spanish. A studio mate read it to me. She recognized the sancocho, a traditional Colombian soup.



I think the postcard is like a letter haiku. Think of everything you’ve learned in brief intervals of 17-syllable haiku from our regulars on haiku (one-a-day). The postcard from my uncle spoke to me; half a century later I gained a glimpse of who he was. I got a postcard from ybonesy that arrived right after I came home from Georgia. Maybe she’ll send me one from Vietnam (smile).

I’m considering a postcard/letter writing practice in the coming months. I want to use the vintage Royal. When is the last time you received a handwritten letter or postcard? If you have insights into the art or practice of postcard and letter writing, please share them with us. All is never as it seems. And life letters only add to the mystery.



Postcard From Uncle Jack, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Postcard From Uncle Jack, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



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

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Winter Solstice, cropped linocut © 1991 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Midnight is Winter Solstice. I sit in the coming darkness alone, watching the sky. Snow melted and dripped off the roof. Puddles formed in the driveway. A storm will skirt the Twin Cities by morning. I am hoping for a wallop of snow. The more the merrier, a frosty covering for our friends’ pond at the Solstice celebration tomorrow night. There will be a Yule fire. And good friends. And food fit for a Queen.

A few weeks ago, Mom sent me a scan of this old Christmas card. It was after I made a comment on one of ybonesy’s pieces about the process of creating linocuts. I had no idea she had saved it, tucked away in a memory drawer.

There were two Christmases when I wrote long Holiday letters slipped into parchment envelopes with round string clamps; printed snapshots of a plank porch grin somewhere in the Bitterroots of Montana; hand made linocuts with a rectangle of 1/2 inch glass, cattail paper, printers ink, and a baren. Paint was smeared from faucet to jeans. I love getting art-messy.

I look at ybonesy’s detailed linocuts and wonder if people understand how labor intensive the process is. Measuring. Cutting the paper with a straight-line metal ruler. Inking the roller, the clean up, mess, drying period. But it’s all worth it. I want to go on record with that right now.

I’ve been looking at studio spaces again. I need a space to create. And write. I do love being at home. But there is something about getting out of the house that jolts the memory, burns the synapses, jumpstarts the body. And there is the element of community, a vital ingredient. You can’t create in a vacuum. No one can do that for long without losing some semblance of sanity.

I celebrate Winter Solstice this time every year. Honoring the darkness that sits sheltering and cavelike over the Northern climates of this country. It’s Bear energy. Hibernation. West. Introspection. Going into the cave pregnant with potential. Shooting out of the birth canal full of promise. Refilling the well. To create, I have to replenish the coffers. Hold a little bit back for me. Fire in the belly.

Liz will be home from work soon. And we’ll finish our baking. She made the double chocolate walnut fudge last night while I took care of some business items. And tonight, at the end of the darkest, shortest day of the year, we’ll razzle up the cherry oatmeal cookies, the maple glazed walnuts and pecans, and Mom’s family recipe for Southern Rocks. I wrote in a practice the other day, “When Liz bakes, the whole house smells like a Holiday.”

That’s what I want. For the whole house to smell like a Holiday. Scent is powerful. The succulent history of the senses. Connect smell to story. I could tell you a few tales.

One is of Santa, Old Saint Nick. And the other of the birth of a Saint. Don’t forget the celebration of seasons. Winter is delightful. Soulful. Quiet as snow. Dark as molasses.

But you have to make light of the dark. Go inside and write. Visit with the people you care the most about in the world. If that’s not possible, if you are alone, make arrangements to do community service. Give to others. It comes back a million.

Light up the world with blinking strings of dazzle, twittering tinsel, a Pooh tree topper. Of course, I believe in Santa Claus. Are you nuts? That bright red suit can light up these dreary gray Midwestern skies anytime now. I’m ready for Light.

And starting tomorrow, minute by minute, second by second, Spring is on the way.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, December 22st, 2007, exactly 12:08 a.m. CST, Winter Solstice in the North

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 Writer's Hands III, hands of Candyfreak author, Steve Almond, signing a copy of his latest book, (Not That You Asked) Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions, Minneapolis Central Library, downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Writer’s Hands III, hands of Candyfreak author, Steve Almond, signing a copy of his latest book, (Not That You Asked) Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions, Minneapolis Central Library, downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It’s late and I’m tired. But I wanted to write a short note. I just got home from Thai dinner, stimulating conversation, and late night writing practice with two of my writing friends, Teri and Bob. Bob drove all the way from Kansas City, Missouri, to visit and write with us.

And last night, Liz, Bob, Teri, and I went to the Minneapolis Central Library to see Candyfreak author, Steve Almond, read from his new book (Not That You Asked) Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions. He was grounded, stimulating, generous with his time, and did I mention, fun? (Check out The Original Smarties Necklace wound around his wrist as a bracelet!)

There will be more to come about this author on red Ravine. But for now, get out and hear Steve read and speak. Buy his books. You’ll be inspired and motivated to action. And best of all, you’ll go home wanting to write. And change the world.

Thanks to Steve, Teri, Liz, and Bob for making the night a memorable one. Without the support of other writers, what do we have? And, Bob, have a safe journey home. And don’t forget the magic word – Hemingway.


-posted on red Ravine, Friday, October 12th, 2007

-related to posts, Homage To A Candy Freak and WRITING TOPIC – CANDY FREAK

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Another month has rolled by, so our May guests have rotated off the Guest Writers & Featured Artists widget on the sidebar. You can still locate their pieces, however, by typing their individual names into our Search bar. Or by clicking on Guestwriter or Guestartist under Contributors on the sidebar.

We’d like to take a moment to thank all of our Guests who have written with us on red Ravine. Each one of them has supported and expanded our efforts to create a dynamic writing and art community blog.

And, just to remind you how brilliant, exciting, and provocative our guests are, here are links to our May sojourners:

We are still working on our new submission guidelines so we can continue to solicit and publish writing and art from friends and strangers alike — kindred spirits of all stripes. We hope to publish our guidelines in the coming weeks.

If you just can’t wait until then, drop us a line at info@redravine.com anytime to find out how you can become a guest on red Ravine. And thanks for reading!


 -related to July post, Where To Find Our Guests

-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

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Gold Medal Park, July 2007, near the I-35 bridge, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Gold Medal Park, August 3rd, 2007, blue light from the Guthrie, and the old Gold Medal sign, a few blocks from the I-35 bridge, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I ended up in downtown Minneapolis Friday night, by the I-35 bridge. I didn’t plan to walk down by the river. But that’s what ended up happening. Liz and I took her Mom into Minneapolis to pick her brother up at the Hilton. The four of us went to Harry’s by the old Milwaukee train station for dinner. Liz had seen a write-up in City Pages.

The chocolate banana cream pie was sizzling and creamy, the Robert Cray a little too loud, the beer bottle chandelier campy, the energy electric. The fresh shrimp appetizer stared back at me from a clean, white plate with beady, black eyes and centipede feet. I had to work too hard to snag the meaty centers. But the butterbeans and ginger dipping sauce were delectable. And we had a good time.

Eat At Harry's, August 2oo7, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. After dinner, Liz decided to try to drive over the 10th Street Bridge. It was blocked off. So we went over by the University of Minnesota to see what was happening. Things were buzzing: summer students, slow-moving SUVs, curious tourists, and everyday people like us. People who live here and want to steal a fleeting glimpse of what’s happened to their city.

We couldn’t see much. But we did pass by the blue and yellow media tents precariously perched on the edge of the University Bridge. There was a lot of neck-craning navigation through slow-moving traffic. People seemed unusually eager to let us in. Kind. Polite.

Grain Belt Chandelier, August 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Later, we dropped Liz’s family off at the door of the downtown Hilton. We were tired and knew we wanted to get home. But we were so close. So Liz took a chance. “Wanna go down by the river to the parkway?” she asked. “Yeah, let’s try,” I said. Liz has amazing luck with parking. She found a spot under the gangly shadow of the Ceresota sign, right across from the old Whitney hotel. We grabbed our cameras and started walking down to the Mississippi.

It had taken me a few days, watching endless loops of media coverage, to figure out that my favorite part of West River Parkway was no more. The closest we could get was a short span of road under the Gold Medal Flour sign, next to the Mill City Museum and the Guthrie Theater. There were groups of people gathered on a little outcrop across from the Stone Arch Bridge. They stood two by two, talking one on one, quietly discussing what they were seeing.

There was pointing and head bowing and quiet honor. Shared solitude. Silent prayers, inner mourning, deeper understanding. Solidarity. The I-35 bridge over the Mississippi had caved into the river. And yet we were still here. All that was left were the bright lights, twisted beams, and green vertical V’s of mangled metal. Everything else was under the river.

The 10th Street Bridge was standing behind the collapsed bridge. The illusion was that it stood in front of it. We walked past the Guthrie, down to within a block of the Red Cross building. A twenty-something policeman with a green flashlight, blue cooler, and yellow tape, roped us off from going further. It would be a long time before I drove the Rebel on that stretch of road again.

From the last barrier, we could see the section of the bridge that had smashed into the parkway. It stood brightly lit through the dark foliage that covers the river banks. I’ll never forget the woman on the news who had gone under the bridge on the parkway seconds before it collapsed. Her account of the deafening noise, immediate silence, confusion, horror, disbelief, and helplessness, will stick with me always.

Ceresota, August 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Ceresota, August 3rd, 2007, on a walk to see the I-35 bridge, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Liz and I walked silently back to the car. We took a few photographs, and checked in with each other when one of us would stop to stare at the river. My camera battery died. I wasn’t much in the mood anyway. I was taking it all in. And trying to hold the enormity of it. I’m not there yet. But the cover of night offered solace. By the time we were ready to leave, there were only a few people milling around near the Stone Arch Bridge.

We slowly walked up the hill by the old mill ruins. Liz snapped a few hundred ghostly orbs. We didn’t realize until we looked at our photographs this morning that bright blips of ghostly light were peppered throughout her photographs. The Spirits of the old mills are restless.

Perhaps they are shaken up by what they have seen. Or are surfacing to offer comfort to the living. There have been countless accidents and fires on that stretch of the Mississippi. Minneapolis grew up on her banks; she’s suffered a new scar. Loved ones have been lost. They are holding up the sky.

While we were driving home through the city that night, I realized how much I love it here. I was not born and raised in Minnesota. And it took me a long time to feel like I fit in. But after 23 years, this is my home. I love the Midwest. And Minnesota. I love Minneapolis.

I was surprised to feel the tears well up in my eyes this morning when I looked at the night shots of our town. I felt a strange sense of pride.

The pride has always been there, a hidden undercurrent. But Friday night, when I stared at the swollen Mississippi, quietly holding the severed, crumpled aorta of our city, the root was unearthed. I tapped into a vein of strength: a deep layer of connection and community; a place I know I belong.

Saturday, August 4th, 2007


Bridge To Nowhere – The Great Connector posted on red Ravine, Sunday, August 5th, 2007

-related posts:  Fear Of Bridges, Minneapolis At Night, Natural Wonders: A Pentagram

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Sunflowers, growers market, Albuquerque, NM, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-Sunflowers, July 2007, growers market, Albuquerque, NM, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


ybonesy: What is it about being able to hang out in person with someone who you normally do so much with — write, start a blog, plan and produce — via telephone and email?

QuoinMonkey: Oh, it was such a relief to be able to just sit and have a cup of Joe on the patio in the morning, instead of having to plan for different schedules and time zones. I also got to see your expressions and your smile. And the space where you live. It was so relaxed.

Room With A View, Albuquerque, NM, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. yb: Yeah, I felt the same way! We never seem to have time to just hang out, get to know each other better. Although, after writing with you for how many years now, I feel I know a lot *about* you. Is that the same as knowing you, though?

QM: That’s the question of the century. I used to think you could know someone through writing practice. But all you really know is the inner workings of their mind. Not who they are day-to-day. That’s what made it so great to be able to hang out together in the same town. And to do day-to-day things, as well as planning for the future of red Ravine.

yb: I’m glad you met my family and vice versa. They liked you a lot. The candy surprises you left the girls helped ;-). Really, though, Jim doesn’t get to talk motorcycles with any of my other friends. I’m curious, after “hearing” about them all these years through my writing, are they what you expected?

Emerald & Rose, the backyard, Albuquerque, NM, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. QM:  LOL. That Liz, she was so thoughtful to remind me to bring a little something for the girls. I loved talking motorcycles with Jim. He’s so knowledgeable and hands-on. If we lived in the same town, I’d sure love to take the bikes out sometime. I know from experience that my Honda Rebel can even keep up with a Harley!

Your family is a delight – even better than the way I pictured them from your writing. Honestly, I had a pretty good idea about each one of them from the details of your writing practices over the years. But now the visual is grounded in something solid. A whole new realm.

Cherries Of Gold, growers market, Albuquerque, NM, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  yb: It was good for them to get to know you, too. I just wish you could have stayed longer. I would have liked to do some writing practice with you. This is the first time we’ve been together in person where we didn’t do writing practice, right?

QM: Right, I kept thinking we’d have time to practice. But it took us quite a while just to catch up on my week in Taos and your week at Ghost Ranch. I think we were both so excited about our work. And then there was the need to do some planning for the blog. Next time, I’d make it a 3-day weekend, if you could stand me that long. 8)

yb: Absolutely!! Hey, I realized when I dropped you off at the airport that you were going to be starved by the time you boarded your plane. I should have sent you with plums from the grower’s market, at least. Did you get to eat at the airport?

Swirl, growers market, Albuquerque, NM, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  QM: Ah, the grower’s market was great. Everything went like clockwork that day, didn’t it? I checked my baggage and went straight to the gate. There was a Quiznos right there. But after I stood in line, I realized the heat had shrunk my appetite and I wasn’t hungry enough for a sub. So I grabbed a bag of Sun Chips and a chocolate chip cookie which I only ate half of because I’d forgotten that Liz had arranged a bump up to First Class (for the same price). They fed me a full meal half way into the flight.

All this to say, not to worry! I came home quite satisfied. Oh, BTW, what was it you made Saturday night? Homemade enchiladas? They were so good. Where did you say you learned to cook?

yb: Oh yeah, those were enchiladas. With an egg on top. (The way the locals eat ’em.) My mom taught me how to make the red chile from pods. Everything I make that’s any good, it’s because my mom taught me. Next time you come, bring Liz. We like having visitors.

Retablo, Chair, Broom, on the back patio, Albuquerque, NM, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  QM:  I will be back to New Mexico in the not too distant future. Of that I am sure. Liz and I have been wanting to get away together for some time. With her in school and me traveling as much as I have for my writing, it’s been about 3 years since we took a week off together. So maybe next time we’ll come through New Mexico!

You know, I was thinking this morning that in 2008, I want to take a writer’s retreat in northern Minnesota. Or maybe a few hours north in Duluth. Then my mind extrapolated and thought, why not invite ybonesy? We could have shared time together and then separate time to write alone.

Or you could paint the North Shore, which is stunning. It’s all about the water here in Minnesota. What do you think?

Hey, I was also wondering, now that you’ve had time to sit with your week at Ghost Ranch, how do you think it changed your painting and writing? Or even your idea of the direction you want to head on red Ravine. What do you think was the biggest thing to come out of our meeting?

Bamboo, Wings, Albuquerque, NM, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  yb: I love that idea! I’d like to do a retreat somewhere outside NM, and I want to see your part of the world, too.

Let’s see, on your two questions, Ghost Ranch gave me the opportunity to dedicate an entire week to my painting and to see that yes, I am an artist. I have all the experiences inside me. I rarely devote that much time all at once to producing, so the gift was having the time, the materials, inspired teachers and students, and a beautiful setting. It all came together.

And our meeting, well, I think I realized how much I gain from having creative people in my life who I can talk to about writing and art. Our conversation generated good ideas for my own work as well as for the work we’re doing together. That’s huge. Inspiration is huge. How about you? What do think was the biggest thing?

QM: Hmmm. I felt really comfortable in Taos this time. I was tired from the work I was doing, but the experience and Apricot Green, over the patio, Albuquerque, NM, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. learnings were deep. On the Twin Hearts shuttle between Taos and Albuquerque, I realized I need to do a writing retreat in 2008. Give myself time to go somewhere alone or with a few trusted writing friends. It was the first time I had that feeling so strongly.

(BTW, there were only two of us on the 11a.m. shuttle from Mabel’s in Taos, and I was the only person after we passed Santa Fe! It felt like a limo!)

About our meeting, the biggest thing was to bounce creative ideas and projects off a trusted writer, artist, and friend. The road is a hard one. And it’s difficult to find a person who not only shares a mutal vision and is willing to do the work, but supports me in my individual projects and dreams. I’m so awake to that kind of listening. And you want to know the biggest and most simple thing? I ask questions about your life and you ask questions about mine. It’s an equal exchange. Refreshing!

Shadow Shifting, Albuquerque, NM, July 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-Shadow Shifting, July 2007, Albuquerque, NM, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

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Mabel’s Lights, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February, 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved

-Mabel’s Lights, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, from the Wake Up series, all rights reserved


For all the writers who are meeting soon to write, read, listen, and keep the connections going. Here’s to community.


 Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

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As a writer, there is much I could say about Virginia Tech. I’ve been at a loss for words. When I watched poet Nikki Giovanni close the Virginia Tech Convocation commemorating the deaths of those killed on April 16th, I knew it had all been said – I could choose hope.

Nikki Giovanni  has been a professor of writing and literature at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) since 1987, and is now a Distinguished Professor there. It is fitting that Giovanni, a great poet (one of my favorites who inspired several posts: Bookends, Balances, and Hard Rain & 3 Grains of Salt to One Ounce Truth) would end the VT Convocation with a poem:



We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on. We are embracing our mourning. We are Virginia Tech. We are strong enough to stand tall, tearlessly. We are brave enough to bend to cry. And sad enough to know we must laugh again. We are Virginia Tech.



It’s an odd synchronicity that April is National Poetry Month. Poetry distills everything down to just the essentials. It is sparse and moving. If you haven’t seen her read her poem at the Convocation closing, I recommend viewing the full video. It is powerful and inspiring: “We are Virginia Tech” – convocation poem read by Giovanni (MSNBC video)  

Since Monday, we’ve been blasted with issues of gun control, troubled youth, law enforcement response times, “Crisis in America” headlines, and self-directed media coverage. It’s depressing at best. But the comments Amelia made yesterday on red Ravine in Practice – No Topic – 10min brought Giovanni home to me  – we will continue on if there is hope.

Their optimism serves to remind me that writing is about the power of words – but writing is nothing without community. I want to focus on the positive. And write about what pulls us through. Not what tears us down.

In 1999, Giovanni was the keynote speaker at the University of Michigan’s 12th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium. The drive of her speech was that in spite of all obstacles, we sail on. We don’t get tossed away.

Maybe some of the grief we feel is that it could have been any of us. Our daughter, son, parent, sister or brother. In the larger human context, we are all Virginia Tech. But if we believe in hope, we can help each other sail on.


                                                

And you, in this next century, must continue to go on, whether the road is dark, whether you are confused. You must continue to try to go toward that horizon where you cannot see the end, where you do not know . . . if something will gobble you up. Certainly you have every right to be afraid. It’s a vicious world out there.

It’s your life, but you’ve got to do something with it. You might fall off the Earth, somebody might find the end of the Earth, you might fall. But if you don’t, you will have gone to a place few people have seen. You will have found something new. We can’t be cowards, we can’t kowtow, we can’t bend over because we’re afraid of what somebody will say or what somebody will do. All of you have the possibility to do something different and something better. You must sail on.


-Excerpts from Nikki Giovanni’s keynote speech at the University of Michigan’s 12th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium “In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr., Giovanni tells students to ‘sail on’,” By Bernard DeGroat, The University Record, January 25th, 1999


-posted on red Ravine, April 18th, 2007

-related to post: Baldwin & Giovanni – On Truth & Love

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I’m almost done with the bell hooks memoir, Bone Black. I posted a link to the bell hooks articles and profile in Shambhala Sun a few weeks ago in 10 Minutes with the King. But I want to repost Building a Community of Love: bell hooks and Thich Nhat Hanh as a separate log.

All of  the bell hooks articles in Shambhala Sun are excellent. But red Ravine is about community. I don’t want this one to get lost:

 “Building a Community of Love: bell hooks and Thich Nhat Hanh

 Or this one:

 “There’s No Place to Go But Up” – Maya Angelou in Conversation with bell hooks” 

In honor of all practice.

 Monday, April 9th, 2007

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Monkey Mind - Don’t Feed the Monkey, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reservedAs red Ravine gets ready to launch, I’ve been thinking about how important it is to have a teacher, a mentor.

Natalie has been that for me.

It didn’t happen right away. It developed over a long, slow time of showing up and not being tossed away. Sometimes it meant being willing to listen to what I might not want to hear.

And now I have practice. And now I have community. And now I have red Ravine.

All because I showed up. I listened. I practiced. I did things that didn’t make sense at the time or I didn’t have the energy to do – like travelling thousands of miles to Taos last year by car, plane, and Batmobile to write and sit with other writers in silence.

One of those writers is standing beside me as we spring board off into red Ravine. Wow. That’s amazing.

I have a lot of gratitude for the writers and teachers that came before me. And that they are willing to share their successes and failures, so that I might see my own more clearly.

I do a ton of research on my pieces and ramble around the Internet on a daily basis. Last week, I stumbled on this interview with Natalie Goldberg. It’s bare bones, back to basics. And it still rings true.

Here are a couple of excerpts about Monkey Mind from the interview with Natalie. You can read the whole exchange onwhat it means to write down the bones” at Sounds True.

Thank goodness for teachers, in all their many forms. And from the bottom of my heart (which is feeling quite full these days) – thank you.




ST: Please talk a little about what you mean by monkey mind.

NG: Monkey mind is actually a Buddhist term. It refers to mental activity that creates busyness which keeps us away from our true hearts. And it’s an extraordinary truth. Look at our whole culture; it’s built on busyness, and that’s why we’re so unhappy. But part of us loves busyness, including Natalie Goldberg. You have to pay attention and learn to understand how monkey mind works.

What does your true heart want? You have to give it at least half your energy. Otherwise monkey mind fills your whole life with busyness

ST: During the Bones program, you talk about a key teaching you received from Katagiri Roshi – “not to be tossed way.” What does this mean?

NG: Don’t be tossed away by your monkey mind. You say you want to do something – “I really want to be a writer. But I might not make enough money as a writer.” That little voice comes along. “Oh, okay, then I won’t write.” That’s being tossed away. Those little voices are constantly going to be feeding us. You make a decision to do something. You do it. Don’t be tossed away. And part of not being tossed away is understanding your mind and not believing it so much when it comes up with all these objections, when it comes up with all these insecurities and reasons not to do something. Don’t be tossed away.


Thursday, April 5th, 2007

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1. I don’t know why I write but I’ve built my whole life around it.
2. I write to keep myself alive. I can’t not write.
3. I write because I have something to say, a story to tell.
4. I write because if I don’t it feels like a million cactus pricks are sticking it to my insides.
5. I write to give something back to the world.
6. I write so I don’t say something I’ll regret.
7. I write to make my life have meaning to me.
8. I write to be in the circle of other writers, part of the legacy of other writers, in the lineage of other writers.
9. I write because I love the taste, touch, and smell of books and the lives of the writers who wrote them.
10. I write to practice writing, to feel the words dance on the page.
11. I write because I’ve been called to write my whole life – I can’t ignore it any longer.
12. I write because I love writing.
13. I write because when I dive smack dab into the middle of a piece, everything else in the world drops away.
14. I write to keep myself company.
15. I write to stick it to the Monkey.
16. I write to feel the uncomfortable edges and the vacuous spaces in-between.
17. I write because it feels holy to me.
18. I write because lost is a place and writing is the map.
19. I write because the screaming inside wants to be heard and I believe in what she’s trying to tell me.
20. I write because it helps structure my life.
21. I write because fear sneaks in at all hours of the day and night.
22. I write to keep the creative juices alive.
23. I write because there is no other high like it. There is also no other low.
24. I write because when I ramble around in the insanity of my brain – out on the page springs something sane.
25. I write to be true to myself. I write to live well. I write to be free.
 

Monday, January 29th, 2007 

-related to post, WRITING TOPIC – 25 REASONS I WRITE

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