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Heart & Soul, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   

Heart & Soul, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, on the hill behind the zendo, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


My sister-in-law told me about a book she’d recently received as a gift, The Five Languages of Love by Gary Chapman. It’s about the ways individuals express love. And the ways they like to have love expressed to them. What makes you feel loved?

On a recent 62 degree November day, I was taking a walk by the Susquehanna River with my mother, and we started talking about the subject of love. The lively discussion led to many questions.

What if the way you are able to give love is not appreciated by your partner or spouse? What if your partner or spouse doesn’t know what makes him or her feel loved? What about friends? Isn’t it important that they know the things that make you feel appreciated?

According to Chapman, there are 5 primary languages of love:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch



          Heart & Soul - Inside Out, Mabel Dodge House, through the zendo window, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved    Going The Distance, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved 


Think about the things that make you feel loved. Are they acts of service. Thoughtfulness. Gratitude. Is quality time high on your list. How deep is the well. Half empty? Half full? To love we need to be able to both give and receive. How do you like to receive? How is learning to receive different than taking?

If you’re having a hard time answering, Chapman provides some clues, questions to ask yourself to help determine your primary language:


Contemplation, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved


 1) What does your partner or spouse do or fail to do that hurts you most deeply. The opposite is probably your love language.


After The Fire, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, along the path outside the zendo. Taos, New Mexico, February 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  






2) What have you most often requested of your partner, spouse, or friends? That thing is the thing that will probably make you feel most loved.


Meditation Heart, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved






3) In what way do you regularly express love to your partner, spouse, or friends? That method may also make you feel loved.








After answering the 3 questions above, pick up your pen and do three, 15-minute writing practices:

I feel loved when…

What hurts me the most is…

I know my friends care about me when…



 Heart Of Taos Mountain, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, outside the zendo, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Sheltered Heart, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved

    

The journey is discovery. Where would we be without love?


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, November 20th 2007

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 Writer’s Hands IV, hands of Bel Canto author, Ann Patchett, signing a copy of her latest book, Run, Fitzgerald Theater, downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Writer’s Hands IV, hands of Bel Canto author, Ann Patchett, signing a copy of her latest book, Run, Fitzgerald Theater, downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Part I.

Fitzgerald Theater (Inside), night of Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and Truth & Beauty; A Friendship, on MPR's Talking Volumes, St. Paul. Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

On a rainy October night, inside the haunted Fitzgerald Theater, Ann Patchett held the audience rapt. She has created a huge life for herself. A writer’s life. Awed by her confidence and poise, I was surprised to find she is also funny, and witty. Bel Canto was the novel that put her over the top. And earned her the alias, “Opera Girl.” But it was the memoir, Truth & Beauty, that drew me in.

The Write Kind Of Jazz, live jazz quartet, night of Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and Truth & Beauty; A Friendship, on MPR's Talking Volumes, Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved My friend, Teri, read the book for one of Natalie Goldberg’s workshops. Then attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop last summer (where much of the book takes place). She suggested I read it. Along with Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face.

Suddenly, it was October, and Teri, Liz, and I grabbed dinner at Mickey’s Diner before walking across Exchange Street into the bustling, sold-out crowd at the Fitzgerald.

We found split seats tucked way in the left corner, right under the balcony. Opening with an airline joke about her lost luggage, Ann Patchett sat across from Kerri Miller wearing black Jazzin' With Ann Patchett & Kerri Miller, Ann Patchett & Kerri Miller enjoying the live jazz quartet at the Fitzerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. jeans, black boots, and a burnt orange scarf. Casual. It didn’t matter. Her comments on grief and loss stilled the room. It was her grieving process for Lucy that became Truth & Beauty. There was no tour when the book came out. She seemed happy to talk about the healing.



Part II.

At times, Ann had the audience in stitches. Other moments, there were tears. Later she would joke with us, pose for a few photos, and sign our books. She seemed glad to be there.

I listened with hungry ears. Teri and I nudged each other anytime we heard some snippet of wisdom, another link in the chain of making our way as writers. Liz took notes in the seat behind us (thanks, Liz!). And every once in a while we would explode into laughter at one of Ann’s jokes.

I soaked it all up. What did I learn?


  • She doesn’t have to write every day. She has no rituals or rules.
  • She doesn’t write between books. She rests.
  • After writing her books, she lets them go. She doesn’t read them again. She doesn’t even remember Bel Canto. She’s moved on.
  • The idea that’s cookin’ may not be the book at all.
  • Writing a novel is about faking it with authority.
  • Two words: pen pal. She has close pen pals.
  • A new definition of pornography was forged when Clemson University (in South Carolina) strenuously objected to Truth & Beauty being on the freshman class syllabus, claiming it was filled with “pornography.” There was a protest; Ann needed a bodyguard to make her speech.
  • Profound, close relationships between two women scare a lot of people.
  • Run, Bambi, Run!
  • The center cannot hold; the falcon cannot hear the falconer.
  • When you write a new book and go on tour, people really want you to talk about the last book because that’s the one they last read. (In this case, the last two books.)
  • She met her best friend and writer, Elizabeth McCracken, during the living of Truth & Beauty. She trusts her with her life.
  • She writes 98 percent for herself, 2 percent for Elizabeth, and no one else.
  • You can’t put love on the scales.
  • In her mid 30’s, she had no knowledge of opera, had never been to an opera, had never listened to an opera. But after Bel Canto, when something goes on in the world of opera, The New York Times calls “Opera Girl.”
  • Research brings her a lot of joy. She hates magic. Why? Magic is the most misogynist art form in the world
  • No experience matches the moment she finished her first published novel, The Patron Saint Of Liars.
  • She was two blocks away from the World Trade Center when it went down. She was holding someone’s hand. 


Part III.

               The Fitzgerald Theater (Outside), night of Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and Truth & Beauty, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.

The Fitzgerald Theater (Outside), night of Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and Truth & Beauty: A Friendship, on MPR’s Talking Volumes, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


What I want to say is that Ann was inspiring. She didn’t pull any punches. She was at the same time vulnerable and strong. Very strong. She knows how to take the criticism of her readers, and the country. She mentors others, gives back. But also seems like she guards her time with her life.

The day after we saw her at the Fitz, she flew to Dallas. Or somewhere in the heart of Texas. The tour went on. I smiled when I thought about her missing luggage. I wondered if Run would do well. But I could tell it wouldn’t matter all that much. She’s already moved on. She’s looking in the eyes of a stranger, waiting for the next book. She’s doing what she’s wanted to do since she was 5 years old. She never wavered for a moment. She’s a writer.


In the moment of our death, we are closest to our life. And the person who is with us at that moment is the person that we desperately need. Because they’re the only person who really understands what we’ve been through.

  – Ann Patchett, Fitzgerald Theater, October 16th, 2007


Part IV.

Post Script:  Don’t take my word for any of this. To hear Ann speak about ichthyology, magic, Bel Canto, bodyguards, Opera Girl (and to find out whose hand she was holding), listen to her talk in its entirety at the link below (you might even recognize a familiar voice during the audience Q&A):

Live appearance: Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Patchett discussed “Run” with Kerri Miller and the Talking Volumes audience at the Fitzgerald Theater.


Related links you might enjoy:

Seattle Arts and Lectures: Elizabeth McCracken & Ann Patchett
Novelists, 5th Avenue Theatre, January 10, 2000

StarTribune Article on Ann Patchett
Setting Her Own Pace, October 2007
(you may have to register and log in to read)


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC: WHAT HAVE YOU LOST & F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Birthday Celebration

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I don’t often lose things. Keys, gloves, hats, mittens, I usually own them for life. I don’t know why that is. I tend to be pretty grounded and track on a minute by minute basis. It’s changed as I’ve gotten older. I have more spaciness. I attribute it to hormonal shifts in the brain and the body.

Last December, after I moved from an apartment I’d lived in for 14 years, I lost track of everything. I purged and got rid of things quickly, off to Goodwill and ARC and Salvation Army. Art studio items were boxed up and moved to storage. I didn’t know what I was living with and what I’d given away or stacked into the garage.

I still don’t know. I recently drove over near the lake to grab a few boxes out of storage. I ended up with about 10 piled inside the Camry, and now stacked by the piano in our living room. In two of them, I found the documents I needed. One bent box, with my scribbled handwriting of 10 years ago, contained a stack of old journals. I’m thinking I may toss them or burn them. I need to see what’s on the page.

Before I did writing practice, my journals were filled with intellectual analyzing and the day-to-day trivia of love and life. So what’s changed? A lot. I can’t stand to read the old stuff. But it does have details that I might use in my memoir. It’s just so boring. I guess this could be considered boring, too. But usually by the end of a practice, I’ve gotten down to some little tidbit that I didn’t know about myself before.

Losing face. The mask. I’ve felt a lot of shame over the course of living. It’s been a long haul to turn it around into confidence. To let go. To know that the choices I make and the things I do are not me. They are choices I make and things I do. Many women feel some form of shame. I know because I hear them talk about it or act from that place in their heart. I recognize it. If you know what to look for, no one can hide.

I often wished to be lost. To never have to grow up. The better I feel about day-to-day living, the more fond I am of the notion of adult. It’s not necessarily easy to think the way artists and writers think. To pull the grub into the heart and spit it back out in words or images that ping the feeling in others. You’ve got to be willing to take in all the crap life has to dish out.

I’ve lost my way a few times. Felt completely ungrounded. Like when I was 21 and moved to Montana. One day I was in Pennsylvania. The next I was flying into Missoula. The only ground I could find were the mountains that captured me the minute I stepped off the plane, held me, and never let go. I still dream about them sometimes, especially the Bitterroots where I spent time stripping logs and digging foundations for the cabins my friends were building.

When I see photographs of myself at that time, I have this lost look in my eyes. I don’t recognize the 20-year-old body. What happened to that? I’m staring at the camera, eyes clear and hazel blue. But where are they going?

Here. They were going here. To the place I’ve landed. The last 10 years have been more about letting go and letting in a bigger life. I didn’t think I deserved a bigger life. What do I think now? There are givers and takers. And they live side by side. I’ve given away too much. But no regrets.

The wind’s whipping through the naked oaks outside the window. I’m waiting for the contractor to come power wash the deck in preparation for sanding, shoring up, and painting. There is a wobble in the pine rails and floorboards. But the foundation is solid. The peeling paint is tinted from the green of arsenic. The contractor said that’s what they used to use to preserve building wood. He said arsenic is not used anymore. But the chemical they’ve come up with to replace it is no better.

That’s the way I feel this morning. Wobbly and solid. Not lost. Not found. I’m here on the couch beside Pants who is curled up in a pile of lime green and hot pink tissue paper. It was wrapped around the Halloween bouquet a few days ago. He quietly cleans himself. The paper crinkles under his ear. It seems to comfort him. Cats never seem lost. They know to follow their instincts. I’m learning to listen.


-from Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – WHAT HAVE YOU LOST

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We’re well into Fall, and our July guests have rotated off the Guest Writers & Featured Artists widget on the sidebar. You can still locate their pieces by typing their names into our Search bar. Or by clicking on Guestwriter or Guestartist under Contributors on the sidebar.

Thanks to our guests on red Ravine who support and expand our efforts to create a dynamic writing and art community blog.

Here are our July guests and links to their pieces:

If you’d like to be a guest on red Ravine, read our Submission Guidelines For Writers & Artists. The link is on the sidebar under How To Submit. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at info@redravine.com anytime. Thanks for reading!


-posted on red Ravine, Friday, November 2nd, 2007

-related to post, Where To Find Our Guests

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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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I find humor in ridiculous things like the Great Pumpkin Catapult or singing moldy oldies with Liz in the morning when I’m spooning French Roast into the Braun. I crack up after belting out dreadful tunes from the seventies, something by Gilbert O’Sullivan or Bread, or rocking out, jammin’ to Stevie Wonder in Happy Feet.

I smiled the whole way through a documentary Liz taped off PBS on Les Paul. The way he invented machines to overdub tapes, recorded in every room in his house with his wife, Mary Ford, and, of course, made guitar after guitar with big bodied, amplified sound. Without Les Paul there would be no rock and roll.

Did you know he’s a Midwesterner, born in Waukesha, Wisconsin; his last name was Polfuss before it was Paul. He’s worth millions, saved every guitar, every recording machine, every headset and microphone. The collection will be in the Smithsonian. He’s in his 90’s, still going strong. He loves to laugh and smile and play his guitar for audiences for a pittance. He loves life. That makes me laugh. I want to be near people who love life.

I don’t find humor in jokes. I never have. Riddles and rhymes that crack other people up are lost on me. I just don’t find jokes funny. Half the time they seem crazy or dumb to me. The other half, I probably don’t get it and stare at the person with my face curled up in a dumbfounded question mark. That’s me. The jokeless wonder. I think I still turned out okay.

I laugh out loud when Liz and I dance all crazy across the kitchen floor. This is a regular occurrence. So you can guess, I laugh a lot. I laugh when I play fetch with Mr. Stipeypants. I knew he was okay when I found his furry red ball, his trophy, in his food dish yesterday.

I smile when I watch the moon rise through the oaks. Liz called on the way to work to tell me the full moon tonight will be the closest to the Earth of any in 2007. The movement of planets, moons, and stars makes me smile, connects me to something way bigger than me. I like paying attention to when Mercury is in retrograde (right now). Retrograde, moving around the sun in an orbit opposite to earth. Don’t sign any contracts. Expect communication delays. Back up your computer.

A friend sent me an email a few days ago letting me know that mischievous Mercury, messenger of the god Jupiter, the smallest planet nearest the sun, was up to his old tricks, turning his face counterclockwise, contorting what normally travels with godspeed to a likely destination. I don’t laugh at myself enough. I work every day to let go.

When darkness falls, I’ll watch the Moon’s billowy skirt slide through crackling, clinging leaves along golden rayed bundles of clouds over the deck. I’ll wish I had a tripod to screw on the digital Canon body. I’ll sigh, decide to skip the photos, and enjoy the Earth in shadowy descent.


-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – A LAUGHING MATTER

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Mickey's Diner In The Rain, Rainpainting Series, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mickey’s Diner In The Rain, Rainpainting Series, outside Mickey’s Diner near the Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It’s been a long couple of weeks. Mr. Stripeypants has started to eat hard food again and seems to be on the mend. (Thanks for all the good energy any of you might have sent his way.) I’m up writing and preparing a post for tomorrow. But for tonight, easy does it.

Mickey’s Diner In The Rain was shot outside Mickey’s Diner late last Tuesday night after Ann Patchett’s talk at the Fitzgerald Theater a few blocks away. If you’re around these parts, you might want to catch a bite to eat.

Otherwise, it was quite a lively day at the bottom of red Ravine. Stop by any time. The parking is free.



I wanted to keep her as much for myself as for her. We had a wonderful time that visit. Even when Lucy was devastated or difficult, she was the person I knew best in the world, the person I was the most comfortable with. Whenever I saw her, I felt like I had been living in another country, doing moderately well in another language, and then she showed up speaking English and suddenly I could speak with all the complexity and nuance that I hadn’t even realized was gone. With Lucy I was a native speaker.

But Lucy was never going to live in Nashville. Even if it might have saved her life, it wasn’t the life she wanted.

Dearest Anngora, my cynical pirate of the elusive heart, my self-winding watch, my showpiece, my shoelace, how are you?


-from Ann Patchett’s memoir, Truth & Beauty, A Friendship, Harper-Collins Publishers, 2004

-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

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