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Posts Tagged ‘Writing Topics’

Wind in the Willow, April 2019, iPhone Video, Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chaska, Minnesota, video © 2019 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

I am drawn to the nurturing willow, especially in times of loss or grief. The willow was sacred to Hera, Hecate, Circe, Perspehone, and all goddesses of the Underworld. In Celtic mythology, the willow represents death and is good for magical work involving the dark or hidden parts of the psyche. The weeping willow is a common sign of mourning and offers protection for underworld journeying and rites of passage. Willows represent immortality, creativity, inspiration, emotion, and fertility and are known for their ability to regenerate from a fallen branch. They have been used to bind brooms and divine water. Have you heard the wind in the willows?

Do a ten minute Writing Practice on the topic of Willow. Or you can write a haiku, poem, or do a photo practice on Willow. Drop your photo or practice into the comments here or link to your blog. I have learned over the years that it doesn’t matter what kind of creative practice you undertake, as long as you consistently feed your work.

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LESSON OF THE WILLOW

 

The watery willow encourages the expression of deeply buried feelings, easing sadness through tears and grieving, and teaching the consequences of love and loss in matters of the heart. The willow reminds us of the need to let go sometimes, to surrender completely to the watery world of the emotions and the subconscious, so that we may be carried toward a deeper understanding of our inner-most feelings, toward a better appreciation of our hidden motives and secret fears and desires. Any suppressed and unacknowledged emotions can be a major cause of stress and illness. Through emotional expression, and through the sharing of feelings of ecstasy and pain, our ancestors believed they could help heal the human spirit. The willow enables us to realize that within every loss lies the potential for something new.

-from Wisdom of the Trees by Jane Gifford

 

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Resources:

What Willow Folklore Surrounds This Beautiful Tree? by Icy Sedgwick

Willow at Trees for Life

Willow Collection at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Willow at The Goddess Tree

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Blood On The Tracks, newly painted door of Bob Dylan's childhood home, Hibbing, Minnesota, May 2006, photo © 2007 by Liz. All rights reserved.     Blood On The Tracks, newly painted door of Bob Dylan's childhood home, Hibbing, Minnesota, May 2006, photo © 2007 by Liz. All rights reserved.

Blood On The Tracks, newly painted door of Bob Dylan's childhood home, Hibbing, Minnesota, May 2006, photo © 2007 by Liz. All rights reserved.     Blood On The Tracks, newly painted door of Bob Dylan's childhood home, Hibbing, Minnesota, May 2006, photo © 2007 by Liz. All rights reserved.

Blood On The Tracks, newly painted garage door on Dylan’s childhood home, part of the Dylan Days tour, Hibbing, Minnesota, May 2006, photo © 2006 by Liz. All rights reserved.


I’ve had music on the brain. Last week I watched an October interview with Nancy and Ann Wilson on A&E’s Private Sessions. The two members of one of the greatest rock bands of all time, Heart, were in fine form. Ann Wilson has a new CD called Hope & Glory.  She tackles everyone from Shawn Colvin, Alison Krauss, k.d. lang, Rufus Wainwright, and Elton John – all the way to classic rockers, Led Zeppelin.

Watching I’m Not There a few weeks ago at the Uptown, and researching The 6 Faces Of Dylan, stirred up a few memory bars, too. I started compiling a list of my all-time Top 10 Albums (remember those scratches, ticks, and pops!), followed closely by my all-time Top 10 Singles. What happened next was a flood of memories associated with not only the songs, but whole albums.

I cut my teeth on early James Brown, Chubby Checker (is there anyone who doesn’t know The Twist?), and Beatles ’65. I listened to them on a beige RCA suitcase record player with a silver latch. I toted that thing everywhere and wore extra grooves into my coveted collection of 45’s (housed in a padded pink, Barbie record case).

I remember my favorite 33 rpm’s as concept pieces – I couldn’t listen to just one song. I had to hear the whole waxy platter (flip!), both sides:  Neil Young’s, Harvest, Joni Mitchell’s Court & Spark (and Blue), Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, the Anthology: Best of the Temptations (double set), Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection with Come Down In Time. And don’t forget the Johnny Mathis and Nat King Cole Christmas albums.

Then there are the obscure singles like Brook Benton’s Rainy Night in Georgia (this song still gets to the sadness in me), Lulu’s To Sir With Love, or The Association’s Cherish. Along with blockbusters like Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine, Otis Redding’s Dock Of The Bay, Bobby Darin’s Mack The Knife, Wilson Pickett’s Mustang Sally, or Tina Turner’s version of John Fogerty’s (Creedence Clearwater Revival) Proud Mary.

Maybe for you it was Elvis, the Fugees, Crosby Stills & Nash, The Guess Who, Steely Dan, the Supremes, Janice Ian, or Ferron. Maybe it was an old rock or country album your parents played when you were growing up. What about Hendrix, Woodstock, Janis Joplin, The Jayhawks, Los Lobos, Nirvana, Glen Campbell (I admit, Wichita Lineman, written by Jimmy Webb, is one of my faves), Leonard Cohen, or The Squirrel Nut Zippers.


Music and memories. Head back as far into your mental musical archives as you can go. Then connect the dots:

  • Make a list of your Top 10 Albums (8-tracks, cassettes, CD’s) of all time, music that has impacted your life (it doesn’t have to be forever. You can change your mind later. Grab them off the top of your head. Don’t anguish over it!)
  • Make a list of your Top 10 Singles of all time (same thing, don’t make it a big deal)
  • Choose one of the Titles from your combined lists of 20 Hits.


Do a 15 minute writing practice on one of the following:

  • When I hear ____ I remember…
  • The first time I heard ____ …
  • The last time I heard ____…
  • This song reminds me of _____…
  • The first time I saw ______ in concert…


It doesn’t matter what kind of music you like. What matters is how the music moves you. Music lifts the spirits, forces your body to sway, slings you into the fires of passion, keeps you young, and, for better or worse, is undeniably connected to love.

Think about the music that has most impacted your life. Drop some of your Top 10 Titles into the comments below (the more memories we stir, the better!).

And if you Love Me Like Music, I’ll be your song.


-posted on red Ravine, Monday, December 10th, 2007

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What Have You Lost, Rainpainting Series, outside the Fitzgerald Theater, downtown, St. Paul, Minnesota, night of Ann Patchett, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


If you want to know someone, truly know someone, ask them about the things they have lost. No matter how long it’s been. It doesn’t matter. The things we have lost stay with us.

These are the words of Ann Patchett, author of The Magician’s Assistant, Bel Canto, Run, and Truth & Beauty: A Friendship. She wrote the memoir Truth & Beauty to grieve the loss of her friend, Lucy Grealy. The book was her grieving process.

What are the things you have lost? Have you ever lost face, your faith, time. When did you lose your virginity? What about your innocence. Did you lose your childhood, your dreams, someone close to your heart? Did you lose your keys the day you hiked the ocean cliffs of an Oregon beach and were left stranded in the dark.

Make a list of the things you have lost. Choose 1 or 2 items off of your list and do a 15 minute writing practice on each. Let yourself grieve. Take the time. What do you have to lose?


Grief is a debt you owe. After you pay, you can get to the joy.

-Ann Patchett on Talking Volumes at the Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007

-posted on red Ravine Sunday, October 28th, 2007

-related to post, The Parking Is Free

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Porky's Smile, tile floor inside Porky's Drive-In, St. Paul, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   
Porky’s Smile, tile floor inside of Porky’s Drive-In, St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Hey, did’ya hear the one about the roof? Ah, never mind…it’s over your head.

How about the jump rope?? Nah, skip it.

Did you hear the news about the elephant with diarrhea? It’s all over town.


Ah, uhem. This week’s topic is humor. As in, side-splitting laughter. LOL. Laugh your head off. Get a sense of humor, for Pete’s sake.

Humor me, just this once, and read the quotes below about laughter. What is laughter to you? Is it the flip side of sorrow? Is it the best medicine? Are you a serious person or a goofball?

Think about laughter and humor and sadness and joy. Then take your pen and notebook to a quiet place and write these words at the top of your page: I find humor in…. Write for ten minutes.

When you’re done, set your timer for another ten minutes and write these words: I don’t find humor in …. Write again.

The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.  ~e.e. cummings

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.  ~Victor Borge

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.  ~Kurt Vonnegut

Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.  ~Ken Kesey

A laugh is a smile that bursts.  ~Mary H. Waldrip

The secret source of humor itself is not joy, but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.  ~Mark Twain

The beauty of the world has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.  ~Virginia Woolf

Aba-dee, aba-dee, aba-dee, a… that’s all folks.

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Remington's Studio. May 2007, photo © 2007 by Skywire. All rights reserved.

Remington’s Studio, Cody, Wyoming, May 2007, photo © 2007 by skywire. All rights reserved.


The photograph is of the 1890’s studio of the artist, sculptor, painter, and writer, Frederic Remington.  You can get a sense of how he liked to create while surrounding himself with found objects, paints, artifacts, and sculpture. Though based in New York, his studio was alive with the energy of the American West; the place and the people held great meaning to him.

Remington was also a writer. And along with producing more than 3,000 drawings and paintings, and 22 bronze sculptures – cast in editions, he wrote two novels – one of which was adapted to the stage – and over 100 magazine articles and stories.

Artist or writer? Many times, the two remain forever connected.

The writing topic this week:

  • Choose 1 object from Remington’s Studio
  • Start with a 15 minute writing practice on the object
  • Take an idea or paragraph from the practice, and write a short piece, 500 words or less

If you want something more complex, choose 3 of the objects and weave them into 1 practice. If you only get as far as the practice, that’s okay. You will have started. And the object you wrote about will have meaning to you, resting in your mind and body until you are ready to do something with it. Or maybe you never will. And it will simply have been an exercise in wild mind.

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Below are some facts about Remington that I didn’t know before researching this Writing Topic. It’s good to open to a writer or artist as a person, with a living, breathing past. A person who is much more than the historical image or soundbite, projected in our minds.

  • Remington went to Yale, majored in art, and played football, but did not graduate.
  • Later in his career, he experimented with the perception of color. He lightened his palette and placed his colors as they would be affected by light.
  • He failed as a sheep rancher and then as a saloon owner in Kansas.
  • Remington made his first visit West to Montana in 1881; many more trips would follow to New Mexico, Arizona, and elsewhere, west of the Rockies.
  • In the mid-1880s, after discovering there was a market for his drawings, he turned to magazine illustration full time. His images were of American Indians, cowboys and the West that he believed to be rapidly disappearing, if it was not already gone.
  • By 1887, he was sufficiently famous that another Easterner who loved the West, Theodore Roosevelt, hired him to do the illustrations for his book, Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail. Roosevelt became a good friend.
  • In 1891 he illustrated an edition of Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha.” He also did the illustrations for his own first novel, Pony Traces, in 1895.
  • In 1898, Remington traveled to Cuba for the Spanish-American War as a journalist and illustrator. It was not a good experience, and the artist never got over the horror he saw. In “With the Fifth Corps,” his essay about his wartime experiences, he wrote of the Cuban campaign: “One beautiful boy was brought in by two tough, stringy, hairy old soldiers, his head hanging down behind. His shirt was off, and a big red spot shone brilliant against his marblelike skin.”
  • In 1900, a year-and-a-half after he returned from Cuba, Remington produced his first two night paintings, The Wolves Sniffed Along the Trail, But Came No Nearer and Pretty Mother of the Night White Otter Is No Longer a Boy, as illustrations for his second novel, The Way of an Indian, a brave’s coming-of-age story.
  • In 1908 one of the most prominent writers on art of that time observed in his comments on Remington’s very successful exhibition at Knoedler’s Gallery in New York City that “the mark of the illustrator disappeared and that of the painter took its place.”
  • Frederic Remington was 48 years old when he died December 26, 1909 from complications following an appendectomy.

                                                
-from the following articles:

– Insight on the News,  May 27, 2003  by Stephen Goode
Frederic Remington and the American Civil War: A Ghost Story
Frederic Remington Biography from the  Buffalo Bill Historical Society in Cody, Wyoming


If you want to know more about Remington, visit the websites; they are loaded with information. The studio reproduction can be found at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming. The Center is a combination of five different museums, including the Draper Museum of Natural History and the Plains Indian Museum.

Sunday, July 1st, 2007

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Island of Pine and Clay, Clarks Hill Dam, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Island of Pine and Clay, Clarks Hill Dam, June 3, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Have you ever made love under a rustic waterfall or on the sand at Cannon Beach, Oregon (it doesn’t feel as romantic as it looks in the movies). Have you soaked in a natural hot springs in New Mexico or dipped in a sulphur pool on a canoe trip along the Nahanni River in southern Canada? Have you ever flown in a  seaplane?

Tell me everything you know about water. Here are 20 useful water facts to get you started. Did you know your brain is made up of 70% water, the lungs weigh in at 90%, the body can be all the way up to 60%. How many times a day do you shower? What’s the longest you’ve gone without brushing your teeth? Have you ever heard of the human squeegee?

Would you rather live in the desert or along a lake, river, or stream? Did you honeymoon at Niagara Falls? When’s the last time you walked slowly in the rain? When did you learn to swim, who taught you, were you wearing water wings? How long can you hold your breath underwater? What are your first memories of water.

Do a writing practice on everything you know about water. Then choose a memory and write it down adding as many details as you can.


 Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

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The Topic is short, sweet, maybe not simple. List the Top 10 books that have had the most impact on your life.

Your entire life. From the time you first started reading – or were read to by your parents – to the present moment. Which books (and by extraction, writers) had the most influence on you?

It could be pages memorized at age 25 from a book you haven’t picked up since. Could be authors who jumpstarted you at 13 and now collect dust on your middle-aged shelves. Maybe it’s a book you read last week.

Was it The Pit and the Pendulum, Siddhartha, Rapunzel, Harry Potter, The Color Purple, Breakfast of Champions, Journal of a Solitude, or Watership Down? Some, all, none?

Top 10 books that impacted your life. Slam dunk. Nothing but net.

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007
 

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