Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Working imaginative muscles.

Today's painting (later to become a letter to Carol).

The rain has made it past the screens onto the glass of windows, clinging, sliding, dripping on not one, but all four sides of the house. The birds are drenched but brave. Grosbeaks sit at the feeder, their feathers standing out straight like spiked hair while the hummingbirds remain small and sleek as they fight for the sugared water beneath the protection of the porch. The rain has been coming down hard all day. I'm surprised to see any birds at all.

At the moment, in jeans, thermal shirt, and sweatshirt, I sit drinking tea after a day of reading books by lamplight. It's been a dark day. Rain on the metal roof. Sleeping animals except for Abe who barks periodically in anticipation of V.'s return home from work which won't be for several more hours.

After looking at Rikki Ducornet's site I am wishing that I was a fiction writer. Damn, she is good! And, I might add, beautiful too. I feel like I am missing out by not doing the conference, but fiction is not my strong suite by a long shot.
From Deep Zoo, she writes:

Gaston Bachelard asks of writers that we "“Dig life Deeper." I propose that by evoking the potencies that animate our imagining minds, and by fearlessly subverting the dogmatisms that hinder us, we will give breath to our own Deep Zoo--—the hot breath and living bones of inspiration--—and set into motion an original and groundbreaking work.

Last year I learned as much about teaching as I did about writing from Robin Hemley. He was a good teacher whose technique I've borrowed from in my own classroom. It was a good experience as well as hearing Judith Ortiz Cofer read one evening. I left that night feeling like a "born again" writer, reawakened into "writing mind." But this summer, I feel as though my plate is full-- piled high with onions, tomatoes, mangos. I need to be working on my nonfiction. But now I have this nagging question in my mind causing me to wonder if the fiction workshop might do even my nonfiction some good. I've never been as imaginative as I wished I could be. Or maybe I just haven't given it a chance. Or maybe I've just always been too hard on myself. The last one is usually the case.

If I could live 5 imaginary lives I might:
1. Be a fiction writer.
2. Be a talented pianist.
3. Be a Bombay film actress.
4. Live the life of Gauguin on a remote, tropical island, painting and writing.
5. Be an old woman living in a white shack by the railroad tracks tending my flower gardens.

When I was a kid I spent 99% of my time lost in imaginary worlds. I hung out in my closet, where in the dark there was an entire universe that existed beyond my little body. When I wasn't sitting in the closet, I was hiding behind a chair in front of my bookshelf. Before I could read, I made up the stories. Hmmm... where did that person go?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

One inch frame

Sketch: short assignment through a one inch frame

Alright, I'll admit it. I'm scared to death of beginning this project: my thesis.

At the moment I'm reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and came across the chapter "Shorter Assignments." In it she suggests that rather than becoming desperate, crazy, or asthmatic one needs only to start with what can be contained in a one inch frame. So I started with drawing yet another ear. This is my jumping off point. The luck of Buddha is contained in nothing more than the lobe of his ear. But I'm not writing about Buddha. I'm not writing about, let's say, Buddhism. I'm not even writing about the expression on the face belonging to this ear. I need only start with the ear. A sentence, a paragraph, a page. I'm not sitting down to write my entire thesis at once. Only one word at a time.

E.L. Doctorow once said that "writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." Anne Lammot adds that "You don't have to see where you're going, you don't have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you."

For right now I don't even need to know who the ear belongs to. If necessary I can grab a journal from the stack I carried back home with me. Grab one sentence. One scene or thought or moment... broken down into one inch. Start with an ear... the rest will follow.

Focusing in on the minute details, after all, is what often makes for some of the best story telling.

Therefore, the ear. Just the ear.


May 22nd: Sketchbook entry

Today we are being swallowed by wind. It sounds like purple, greys, and blues, thrashing the green of trees in wild circles. This is a pastel drawing from my sketchbook from which I have been doing a drawing a day. Part of a summer long project that I began last week. One day I practiced drawing ears another day I drew the porch, then lotus flowers...

Lately I have been imagining the sky made of molecules; swirling, shifting, fast moving molucules. Today they are banging and crashing against the house, the porch, the woolfie who scratches at the door to come in. It grates on my nerves until I allow it to become color. Just color.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Click to enlargepadThe Jewel in the Lotus

A lotus seeks sustenance not only by turning her jewel face into the infinite and basking in the blaze of heaven, but also by firmly grounding herself to the earth. A slender, flexible stem allows lotus to drift upon the ever changing surface of the water while remaining firmly anchored to the hidden source from which her strength is nourished. This resilient lifeline descends from the world of light and airy breezes, entering an environment of shimmering translucence and shifting shadow. Ever downward into graded, quiet depths, the lifeline eventually reaches the pond floor, spreading a network of roots outward into the black muck. This dark fecund substance represents a constant state of evolution, decomposing in silence. Expired matter flows through the hoop of life, and the alchemic process results in something fertile and nourishing. This knowledge is the jewel in the lotus; life lived in beauty, emerging from unlikely beginnings.

~Helena Nelson-Reed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Karwar, Karnataka. Southern India

At the moment I have a certain taste in my mouth of spicy curry snack mix and tea. My sinuses are particularly open after several days of allergies. The light falling across my desk is a cloudy grey-green-blue and when I sat down I felt, for a moment, like I was in Karnataka again. This is a photo of the writing desk I occupied day after day while I was there. I had a goal: 10 pages a day. I met that goal daily, yet I look back at old journals and realize that it was never enough. Never enough to capture even the smells, let alone the sights, the sounds, the people... so many subtle details. Too much of it I have forgotten, but this morning, I was there, for just a tiny moment; I was breathing the early morning air of a south Indian morning. For a moment there was an ocean; an old woman bent, sweeping her stoop; a mangy dog loping down the street, fishermen untangling nets, a store-owner pushing back the metal gates of his small, dark shop. For a moment I was sitting at my desk about to write everything.

Last night I finished Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. I spent the morning taking notes in my journal on just how she managed to accomplish such eloquent writing. I drew out her stories, took notes on her technique, and got excited when I began to see the patterns. I wrote easily without fear of being right or wrong. Today I started reading Anees Jung's Seven Sisters: Among the Women of South Asia. This is all for an independent study. But what I'm really doing is starting to write. My journal, these last few days, has begun to fill quickly. I've been on a steady diet of samosas, malai kofta, and tikki marsala. The kitchen table is piled high with books, paper, pens, and sketchbooks. I've moved another small table and chair out onto the porch along with a potted pink dahlia. I feel, finally, dedicated to something.

The word pugdandi means a path.
It's not any path, but a path that is made by feet.
It is a path of need.
A road that is cut and hewn and flattened is not a pugdandi.
People walk over a road after it is made.
It is not made and affirmed as it is being walked upon.
A pugdandi disappears if people do not use it regularly.
And in a little while no one remembers where it used to be.

And on this path I return to writing. The ground feels good under my feet.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Today my grandpa passed away. That's him with the big goofy smile on his face. Always that smile. Always. Grandpa, I love you.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Never mind about the 5th grade art

It's, unfortunately, been taken down. I'm babysitting a bare gallery. why? I have no idea. I guess I'll clean for awhile. This place is a pigsty.

There are many things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside by a generous hand. But- and this is the point- who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go on your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won't stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get.

Annie Dillard
from "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek."

Friday, May 13, 2005

Marigold Garden on the Ghats of the Ganges

Tomorrow I'm going to start a new painting on the canvas that's been hanging on my studio wall for many months; the 20x20 inch canvas that I first painted pink, then yellow; the one that's been waiting for a long time.

Saturday is the beginning of free studio rent in exchange for working the gallery every Saturday. This month is 5th grader art. Come see. A little strange, but the walls are filled with masks and drawings. Floor to ceiling. It's a yearly exhibit that always inspires me. I love the masks especially. Uninhibited art. 5th graders are good at that. I could learn a lot from them. Couldn't we all.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Getting rid of dead brain cells

Today I cut my hair off. Yes, all of it. Well, most of it. What was 2 feet is now 1 inch. After an intellectual breakdown, drastic measures were needed. And I must say, it feels DAMN GOOD. Thank you, my cohorts, Renee and Emily for joining in on the fun.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


I think I have "anticlimactic ending" depression. Either that or I'm just very very tired. Spent a very large chunk of the day working on my last essay for VW. My weakest work yet. Tried hard to find connections that weren't there, then finally gave up after 8 hours. F&@* it. Raising questions was all I was capable of. It was time to go home; time to move on. Am I done? I don't know. That depends on if I get to revise. Do I want to revise? No. But I'm willing. After that much work it would be even more depressing not to get the grade. Sad, but true. I'm tapped out. But shit, we learned a lot. A whole whole lot.

Maybe I should have done a painting instead. A different class, but she had the right idea.

But right now the only thing I can think of is sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.


Sunday, May 08, 2005

I like my new job better.

Teaching, that is.

Today I worked at the flower shop for yet another holiday. Why does Mother's Day always have to end up during finals week? Ugh. But I owe my father favor upon favor, so today I worked and in doing so remembered just how much I grew to hate it before quitting to take on the G.A-ship. Retail sucks. It really does. This, I was reminded of after answering the phone and listening to a mother complain that she didn't get her flowers. Flowers that #1, she didn't know IF they were actually ordered, and #2, didn't know whether or not they were ordered from our shop (if ordered in the first place). Now, believe it or not, I am someone who likes to make other people feel good (or at least I try), so it is very stressful when someone tries, for no particular reason, to make me feel bad. Especially for something that I am not responsible for. What is it about retail that gives the customer permission to forget that the person they are talking to is actually a human being? These are problems that I don't need. And I must say, working today made me realize just how nice it is teaching at BSU.

But anyway...


At the moment I am enjoying a glass of wine in celebration of finishing my VW final. Yes, it is the same bottle of wine that I was drinking out of to finish my cont. writers paper. So much for alcoholism. And I would be really excited except that I still have two more papers to go. What the hell is taking me so long, I don't know. I've put long hours into sitting here staring at this computer plunking out one slow (backspace backspace) sentence (delete) at a (backspace) time. But fine, I'll continue. And the faster I do so, the sooner I'll be done. As though this isn't motivation enough!

And speaking of writing, I've noticed that this blog has deteriorated drastically, horribly, pitifully. I've given deep consideration into quitting blogging, at least for the summer. But blogs are addictive. Why? Audience? A constant desire to be heard? I'm not sure what it is, but I'm thinking that some private writing time would be good for me. My journal awaits. Summer awaits. Getting away from this damn computer awaits. I'm amazed that I've publicly recorded one of the most difficult years of my life. Ok, I left the worst of it out, which led to pure drivle in the end. It's time to move on. Thank you Blog for being a stepping stone, a crutch to lean on, but...

Blogging, for the most part, has become a space to complain, whine, complain, and occasionally publish words that should never be published. The "writing community" has become strange and vindictive. I find myself wondering what it would be like to be a writer in the "good old days" when people got together and shared their words over good conversation, wine, coffee, cigarettes. I'm trying to remember if I've ever experienced this, and I think I have, but it is too long ago to remember.

And so I've decided that the best thing to do is to retreat from the world until I have something worth sharing. Maybe then there will be a group of people that wish to do the same. In person. I look forward to that day and wonder if I'll have to move away in order to find it. I hope I'm proved wrong.

This summer I am looking forward to writing. Lots of writing. Oh god, lots and lots of writing. I can't wait! I plan, everyday, to write, to make headway on my thesis, but more importantly to tell the stories I've wanted to tell, but have not yet given myself the time or space to do so. My first plan of attack is to go to summer school. Creative writing only! But behind this lies my real motive and that is having the second half of summer off... to write, to write, to write. What would it be like to not be a writer? I wonder. As a writer, an artist, there is no such thing as "time off." Fine, always to have a purpose in life, I can settle for that. To write and to paint and swim in the river... this is my goal for the summer. Everyday except for when it rains-- then I'll just read. I'll sit on the porch listening to raindrops on metal and read.

Until then, I wait, writing side-notes in my head while I drive, or walk, or sit and stare. And maybe I won't quit blogging; I just won't feel like it needs to be done everyday. Why? Because this is gibberish, all gibberish. And I'm looking forward to getting past all this gibberish.

Saturday, May 07, 2005


Got up at 6:30 this morning, not because I had to, but to make coffee for my husband who was once again suckered into working for my dad for yet another floral holiday... Mother's Day. Since then I've drank 3 cups of coffee myself and am struggling to keep my feet on the ground as I drift out to sea on the current of Virginia Woolf's use of stream of consciousness, the final paper. And I must get it written TODAY. No more dog illnesses, no more broken truck, no more frantic paying of bills. Note to myself: Today I must not allow stress to enter my life. I must stay focused and on track. At least 5 more pages. I can do this. Then on to her use of poetics in Between the Acts. I need to write/rewrite an essay I started and never finished. After that... I must STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER. Ah, but this is an all day project.

I will be happy when it's done. Very very happy. Then on to the last paper. Magical realism in Orlando? Hmmm... don't know. Oddly enough, I never feel "smart" enough for these papers. I can write forever about the art being produced during VW's writing career, yet at the same time feel like I should move beyond that. Those art history classes I took have been bubbling up from the depths of memory since the start of the semester. I find it interesting making the connections. All arts, I believe, are inter-related. The modernist/post-modernist movement just happens to be the most intriguing (to me), a time when the arts exploded (KABOOM!), took completely new paths... in the visual arts, literature, music... and in many ways, is still influencing contemporary art, greatly.

Yeah, but anyway. Stay focused.

I'm going to write now. And I'm not going to stop until I'm done. Uh, good god.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Writing as Art:

  1. It's portable
  2. It's cheap
  3. It's easy to make copies of
  4. Medium is (generally) non-toxic
  5. Easy to store
  6. Supplies/tools are accessible and readily available
  7. requires very little space
  8. Can be done anywhere

Thursday, May 05, 2005

A trip to the Vet

$375 dollars later I came home with a little blue bottle of pills.

Abe's got a urinary infection.
Anu's got Lyme's disease.

My poor babies. I need pet insurance.

And in human years, according the the chart on the wall at the vet...
Abe's 55 years old
Anu's in her 30's
Moonshadow's 67
and Vico is 13.

God, they've grown up so fast!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I know I probably shouldn't write

I've been reduced to bluthering drivel. The past 2 days spent writing a paper (approximately 16 hours + 2 days before getting past the "delete" key) has wasted me. I'm not blessed like the lucky bastard that can write a paper in 2 hours. But it's done and it is something that I've needed to write all year.

I've got a glass of water in one hand and a cup of hot chocolate in the other. I went out for dinner with my husband, then came home and watched a movie. The first movie in a long long time.

Monsoon Wedding

I need to write more. But I can't. All I can say is that the movie made me want to go back to India NOW. Finally, I feel as though I have made the transition back into myself (through writing). Unfortunately, I have 3 more (critical) papers to write by Monday... then, ahhhh.............. need I say more?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

A winner day...

I have been sitting in this chair, this wooden, uncomfortable chair for 14 hours straight today. Did I mention that I am in physical pain? But today I got 8--count 'em EIGHT pages written for Contemporary Writers (complete with breaks to grade essays). And that's 8 pages on top of the 3 that I totally rewrote because they were downright embarrassing. As for the last 2 pages I never bothered to reread what I have... who knows, it could be utter nonsense. And even though it is the fastest writing I've done this entire year, I still have 3-4 pages to go. But fine, I can handle it. The ice may have finally melted.

Could it be this easy for the VW final as well?

I may have figured out the trick although I hope it doesn't lead to alcoholism. Last night, after our final VW class I decided to celebrate with a bottle of wine. I got to the liquor store just as it was about to close, came home, sat in front of my computer, and drank several glasses. I can't say it helped my writing, but it did help my sleep. I woke up relaxed, possibly due to the alcohol still in my system and hit it hard. There's still some left. Maybe I'll have another glass now.

Glory Glory. Let it be over.