Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Later, as I walked to work I read A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman. I found it in a used bookstore a few days after Sunday Scribblings used her quote for their prompt. On the back of the book there's a review by the Chicago Tribune that goes like this:
"An aphrodisiac for the sense receptors. Read a chapter, then step outside and voila: The sky is a deeper blue, the birds sing a sweeter song. How could the world seem otherwise, after feasting on voluptuous prose like this?"
Ok...now imagine reading voluptuous prose like this WHILE outside. Oh my god, I wish it wasn't so late. I wish I didn't need to get up so early. Because I want to tell you about it and I don't want to leave out even a single detail. But I need sleep and, instead, I can only leave you with this (because otherwise I would never stop writing)...from "A Map of Smell":
"Breaths come in pairs, except at two times in our lives--the beginning and the end. At birth, we inhale for the first time; at death, we exhale for the last. In between, through all the lather of one's life, each breath passes air over our olfactory sites. Each day, we breathe about 23,040 times and move around 438 cubic feet of air. It takes us about five seconds to breathe--two seconds to inhale and three seconds to exhale--and, that time, molecules of odor flood through our systems. Inhaling and exhaling, we smell odors. Smells coat us, swirl around us, enter our bodies, emanate from us. We live in a constant wash of them. Still, when we try to describe a smell, words fail us like the fabrications they are. Words are small shapes in the gorgeous chaos of the world. But they are shapes, they bring the world into focus, they corral ideas, they hone thoughts, they paint watercolors of perception" (6-7).
Oh, and that's just the beginning. "Words are small shapes in the gorgeous chaos of the world. But they are shapes, they bring the world into focus, they corral ideas, they hone thoughts, they paint watercolors of perception"...I let those words roll around in my mouth and mind...and it was the best walk that I've had in quite awhile.
And for a thought to fall asleep with:
"Try it now. Describe the smell of your lover, your child, your parent" (8).
it's not so easy as you think.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
ok...maybe we won't chop down trees and eat hot dish, but...
i live in minnesota and all i woke up to this morning is the strangeness of thunder and lightening. lots of rain, but no snow. it's nearly december and there's a very large part of me that keeps thinking: please snow, please snow, please snow....
because all this brown is starting to get depressing. i don't even enjoy the crunch of leaves anymore. and not having snow makes me miss home. i don't want to miss home. so i guess it's a good thing that there isn't snow yet there either because, if there was, i would want to move back. there are things i miss about bemidji immensely. but i'm also glad i'm gone. i needed to move away--my life there was beginning to feel steeped in too much pain. i needed a chance to start over.
but a winter without snow? i can't even stand the thought of such seasonal monotony.
in bemidji, i hear the small lakes have frozen over and the big ones will soon. i can't explain this affinity i have with ice and snow and cold weather. maybe it is because i was born a winter baby. maybe it's because it gives me room to breath. maybe it's because that is what my molecules are made of.
all i do know is that i hope that big cloud of snow keeps moving east and doesn't stop until it gets here...because i want to wake up tomorrow morning, look out the window, and see change. i want to see something that i can call home.
Monday, November 27, 2006
2. Your partner: loving.
3. Your hair: wavy.
4. Your mother: sensitive.
5. Your father: lost.
6. Your favorite item: journal.
7. Your dream last night: bemidji.
8. Your favorite drink: coffee.
9. Your dream car: unattainable.
10. The room you are in: writing.
11. Your ex: crazy.
12. Your fear: thesis.
13. What you want to be in 10 years: everything.
14. Who you hung out with last night: family.
15. What you're not: normal.
16. Muffins: scone.
17: One of your wish list items: music.
18: Time: fleeting.
19. The last thing you did: e-mail.
20. What you are wearing: slacks.
21. Your favorite weather: blizzard.
22. Your favorite book: impossible.
23. The last thing you ate: pretzel.
24. Your life: full.
25. Your mood: hopeful.
26. Your best friend: far-away.
27. What you're thinking about right now: poetry.
28. Your car: covet.
29. What you are doing at the moment: introspective.
30. Your summer: stressful.
31. Your relationship status: solid.
32. What is on your TV: broken.
33. What is the weather like: snowless.
34. When was the last time you laughed: morning.
I was tagged by Mardougrrl.
And now I'm tagging:
bee, ruby, tara dawn, thea, swampgrrl, sophie, susannah, and vinny (ok, this list could go on for a long time and i've already gone overboard...i'm holding myself back here!!)... if you feel like it that is--and anyone else too!
Sunday, November 26, 2006
This is the 4 ft. x 4 ft. canvas that's been waiting patiently for me to paint something on it since we moved. The red chair has been flirting for my attention a lot lately. I think it's time.
Because of odd jobs at the bookstore I've been spending a lot more time at my workbench lately. I was sad to leave my old studio because, whenever I was there, I always felt so incredibly relaxed. Turns out, that feeling followed me into the studio I've created here also. I don't even need to actually be making art. Something about just being surrounded by tubes of paint, stacks of canvases, aluminum cans filled with brushes, stashes of pastels and pencils, and mildly toxic studio odors...well, it has a way of putting me at ease in a way that nothing else can.
And Viscosa...she'll follow me just about anywhere. She's an art cat.
Not only did I help make a crown, but W. (my 7 year old nephew) instructed me on the subtle arts of making spring rolls.
...and, dang, they were good (uuh--I think I ate too many).
After making plate-fulls of spring rolls, my sister gave her kids a geography lesson of Spain. According to her, even wine makes for a good learning opportunity. ha! I can't help but agree. The wine tasted good, too.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
ooh...maybe I'll even paint, too. I need a break from work. I need a break from my miiiiind.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
I've made a promise to myself to write for 3 solid hours today...no matter what kind of garbage it produces. I've already squandered the morning away by taking Anu for a walk, taking an extra long shower, reading a few pages of yet another book, falling asleep for a half hour in the process, and then taking Anu for another walk and playing catch with her in the backyard to wake my tired brain from its slumber.
My latest plan was to go to a coffee shop where there are less distractions and more caffeine to keep me focused on the task at hand. But, for the life of me, I don't feel like biking my lazy ass all the way there. Anyway, it would take at least 20 minutes each way--wasted time, if you ask me. Or maybe that's just an excuse, but whatever...
I've moved my laptop to another corner of the house where I don't usually write. Then I went in the kitchen and made myself a latte. Of course, I had to pretend that I ordered it and someone else made it for me. I made it a little extra frothy and sprinkled cinnamon on top for added effect...and alas, I have my latte, my computer, and 3 hours of writing ahead of me. I'll duct tape myself to this chair if necessary. Distractions be damned!
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
I've spent a large portion of the day staring at my computer screen and thinking of my former fiction professor, Will Weaver. Actually, I haven't so much been thinking about him as I've been thinking about him drawing story form diagrams on the chalk board--over and over and over. In hindsight, I appreciate the repetition of his simple lesson. Had he not drawn that line a hundred times I might not remember it now. I can't help but wonder how many times he drew it, the long upward sloping line towards the climax of the story and then the sharp fall of the resolution, in the course of his teaching career. His diagrams were based on the Freytag pyramid of conflict, rising action, crisis, falling action, and resolution; but Will had a way of making rising action look like the longest, windiest hill in the whole universe. I used to sit in class staring at the chalkboard and imagine myself trudging up a forever grassy incline, pulling the oversized red-wagon of my story behind me. I imagined that I could not rest for fear that my precarious load might roll back down to the bottom of the hill without me. Conflict, conflict, conflict, CLIMAX, resolution. It all felt so futile and difficult and depressing. My imaginings rarely made it to the top of the hill before mental fatigue would set in and I was forced to park my thoughts mid-hill with rocks wedged under the wheels while I waited for better weather or a tow truck that never came.
Because I was never able to successfully pull off the basic dramatic structure of fiction I, somewhere along the lines, simply decided that I'm not a fiction writer. Ok, good enough. I'm not a fiction writer. I write creative nonfiction and poetry. Well, ok...in all honesty, these days, I only write nonfiction. Fine. But the problem, I'm realizing, is that I STILL don't know how to climb the hill (or mountain!) successfully, enjoy a decent climax, and then smoke a cigarette afterwards.
My point is: in terms of narrative structure, the needs of creative nonfiction are not necessarily ANY different than fiction. Sure, there's lots of room for creative leeway (in any genre), but at this moment I'm standing at the bottom of the hill wondering which direction I should go.
I'm feeling stupid and amazed by how much I still have to learn about writing. And I know there will never be an end to it, but...
How does it work?
I give gkgirl credit for his name since it was her suggestion (it fits perfectly, what can I say?!). But since the rest of the animal kingdom that inhabits the book store is named after literary characters, I've decided that Sully should be able to bask in the sun of literary achievement as well.
And so it shall be...this humble little salamander has hereby been dubbed "Sully" after the French poet, Rene Francois Armond Prudhomme (aka "Sully Prudhomme"), winner of the first Nobel Prize in Literature in 1901 "in special recognition of his poetic composition, which gives evidence of lofty idealism, artistic perfection and a rare combination of the qualities of both heart and intellect."...sounds like our kind of guy!
But maybe I'm not telling you enough. You see, what this little salamander represents is the making of a dream. Every year the bookstore gives out free books to their customers during the christmas season. This year we are giving out The Salamander Room because, in a way, it is the story of this particular children's bookstore. It started as a wee little vision and, little by little, grew and grew into what it is now. It is a bookstore with charm and character and an extremely large dose of originality.
What I've experienced working at the bookstore is that it is a place that is loved...by many. I mean, people travel half way across the country just stop in because they have fond memories of visiting when they were young--and I don't blame them! Dang, this is starting to read like an infomertial. I should get a raise for writing this stuff! But it's true. The Wild Rumpus started out as a dream and grew into something with a heart. And that's what Sully the Salamander is meant to represent.
But, you know, it's funny what happens in the process of art making...the way a connection forms between myself and the object I'm creating because...I must say: I've grown quite fond of little Sully.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
lately, i've been making a lot of artwork for the bookstore. and i'll admit, i'm enjoying it profusely.
if nothing else, i am working in new mediums and not only loving it, but learning a lot. for this piece i used pastels, colored pencils, and acyrlic paints. i've never really used pastels and colored pencils very much in the past...but i really like the way the combination works together and how it allows for both soft and saturated effects. it's interesting how these little projects have the potential to influence my personal artwork in big ways. i love getting paid to do these things...and i love that i'm learning something in the process. who knew?
huh? yes, a salamander.
this is, quite likely, the weirdest, most interesting job i have ever had. thank god.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
1. Closest red thing to you? the red stripes in a blanket from Mexico I have thrown over the back of my chair. and a red pen. and a red book. and a red candle. and a red picture frame holding a picture of saraswati, the hindu goddess of art and learning. and...did you know that red is the color i'm most often drawn to? um, yeah...i can't help it.
2. Has anyone ever cheated on you in a relationship? yes. he lied about it when i asked him several years later. i wasn't mad that he cheated on me--but i lost respect for him. our friendship was never the same after that.
3. Last thing to make you angry? i spent an entire shift dusting vases, pottery, and shelves that looked that they, literally, had not been doesn't in years. when i asked my boss if she noticed the sparkle all she she said was: "well, you missed a few spots." i was stunned speechless (but that's probably a good thing.)
4. Are you a fan of romance? i married a poet with an exotic sounding name, didn't i? i love romance.
5. Have you ever been in love? yes. and luckily with the man i'm married to.
6. Do you have a temper? yes. but i blame it on being a sagittarian.
[ GREEN ]
1. Closest green thing to you? beads sent to me from kristine. they are always in front of me when i write. she sent them to bring me encouragement and inspiration. i could write a whole post just about the beads. the green ones remind me of the jungle.
2. Do you care about the environment? i would be stupid not to.
3. Are you jealous of anyone right now? surprisingly, no. these days i'm feeling more inspired by people than jealous.
4. Are you a lucky person? even though i NEVER win anything, i've always felt lucky. things could have gone wrong in my life in so many ways. i must be lucky.
5. Do you always want what you can't have? yes, there's always something that i feel could make my life better....but not necessarily material things.
6. Are you Irish? yes. from my dad's side of the family. my dad used to put green food dye in our milk every year for st. patrick's day. but, even worse, was the aweful green plaid suit he would dress up in, too. he looked hilarious. too bad he grew out of it. :)-
[ PURPLE ]
1. Last purple thing you saw? the notebook in front of me. actually though, it's fuscia--neither red, nor purple (...but it's my favorite color).
2. Like being treated to expensive things? yes. but i try to limit myself to things like good food and good coffee...maybe some nice shampoo.
3. Do you like mysterious things? i love mystery--but only certain kinds. ;)
4. Favourite type of chocolate? really creamy milk chocolate. or dark chocolate spiced with cayenne pepper (have you ever tried it? oh, it tastes heavenly when melted in your mouth with black coffee).
5. Ever met any royalty? does willy nelson count? haha!
6. Are you creative? yes.
7. Are you lonely? no. and, for this, i am thankful.
[ BLUE ]
1. Closest blue thing to you? a packet of wringley's winterfrost gum.
2. Are you good at calming people down? if i want to be.
3. Do you like the ocean? yes. i love it. the ocean is a very intense experience for me--every time.
4. What was the last thing that made you cry? um...today. i don't know why. i felt hurried and stressed out. it was only a couple tears. my husband made fun of me and i ended up laughing at myself.
5. Are you a logical thinker? logic's overrated. :) *those are bee's words. and i couldn't have sayid it any better.
6. Can you sleep easily? yes. i used to sleep better, but i won't complain.
7. Do you prefer the beach or the woods? i NEED regular doses of the woods to maintain a stable doses of happiness. i love the ocean, but i'm most familiar with the woods...it's in my blood and bones.
[ YELLOW ]
1. Closest yellow thing to you? in a painting i did leaned up against the wall.
2. The happiest time(s) of your life? there have been many. maybe even too many to list and hopefully many to come. it's in those little moments of life.
3. Favourite holiday? does my birthday count? haha!
4. Are you a coward? Hell no! but...yes, sometimes.
5. Do you burn or tan? not much of either. my skin stays stubbornly light...no matter how hard i try.
6. Do you want children? yes. about 10 times a day. i also change my mind 10 times a day.
7. What makes you happy? this question makes me happy because it makes me realize how manyt things make me happy.
[ PINK ]
1. Closest pink thing to you? this blog.
2. Do you like sweet things? occassionally. but i'm more of a salt and grease kinda girl. :)-
3. Like play-fighting? yes, especially when i win.
4. Are you sensitive? oh geez...that's an understatement.
5. Do you like punk music? no. my best friends in highschool were all punk-rockers. i was a goth girl myself. i've tried to like it, but punk music has always rubbed me the wrong way. go figure.
6. What is your favourite flower? hyacinth, lilacs, waxflower, paper whites, and tuber roses. (they're all so spicy sweet smelling--it's hard to choose just one).
7. Does someone have a crush on you? i'd like to know if there is.
[ ORANGE ]
1. Closest orange thing to you? a small silk tapestry from india. my computer is sitting on it. and a manderine orange candle tin sitting on my desk.
2. Do you like to burn things? yes. i burn candles and incense nearly every day. i love fireplaces and woodstoves.
3. Dress up for Halloween? i used to sew elaborate costumes for myself...but then i got old and boring (or something).
4. Are you usually a warm-hearted person? well, i hope so.
5. Do you prefer the single life or the security of a relationship? my indepedance is important to me. but i love being married. both v. and i are happiest when we're able to strike a balance.
6. What would your super power be? invisibility.
[ WHITE ]
1. Closest white thing to you? scraps of paper with notes to myself written on them.
2. Would you say you're innocent? nope...then again, it would depend on why you're asking!
3. Always try to keep the peace? in some ways, yes--i just want to avoid conflict. in some ways, no--there are times when i voice my opinion, even when i would have been better off keeping my mouth shut.
4. How do you imagine your wedding? the way it was.
5. Do you like to play in the snow? yes, yes, and yes!!
6. Are you afraid of going to the doctors or dentist? definately! i don't trust doctors and dentists inflict pain.
[ BLACK ]
1. Closest black thing to you? a black planner with a black and white postcard of a park in paris taped to the cover.
2. Ever enjoy hurting people? no.
3. Are you sophisticated or silly? i'm not sure if i'm quite either. can i be something in between?
4. Do you have a lot of secrets? not many. i wear myself inside out.
5. What is your favourite colour(s)? fuscia. red. turqoise. lime green. pink.
6. Does the colour you wear affect your mood? i choose color because of the mood i'm in. if i pick the wrong color, i feel "off."
Friday, November 17, 2006
But, I'll tell you: It is impossible to escape Bemidji.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
His favorite game lately is stealing scrub brushes from E. and, either not letting her have them back (see picture), or hiding them on her completely. Mind you, he only does this with E. And he thinks it's great fun--especially when she gets worked up! ha! (I have to admit, it IS hilarious!)
We let him run around until it's time to open the store and then he goes back in his cage where he'll be safe. But this morning the 10:00 hour descended upon us and we couldn't find poor Tom-Tom. I found him a little later, curled up in my big fat down-jacket under the counter, fast asleep. But, I'll tell you, I wish he would have crawled in the pocket...because I would have loved to bring him home. ;)
Who knew that I'd fall in love with a ferret? But it's true...Tom-Tom has stolen my heart for good.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
I have been thinking about writing all day. And when I say that, I mean that I've been thinking about it since the moment I woke up until now. I took 2 naps and both times I dreampt about writing. Language becomes liquid in dreams.
Fuck. I should have been spending the entire day getting words down on paper. But instead all I could do is read and sleep. I've had so many pearly thoughts--perfectly formed because they have not been distorted by the page. I was cold...and the only warm place in the world was on the couch, hidden under three blankets and the shuttered blinds of the living room window.When V. got home we sat down togehter for dinner. It wasn't until he asked me about my day that I unexpectedly burst into tears over wilting salad leaves and black olives. Right now I'm sitting in a coffee shop next to the fireplace. Finally, I'm beginning to feel my fear of writer's block unthaw. Sometimes, like today, it freezes me solid.
I think it's time to redefine my direction and find intuition again. Something happened to me during grad school. I don't know if it was the experience of school itself, or if it was the accumulative effect of a hard time in my personal life, too (ok, actually, it was a complicated mixture of both). I feel broken. I guess too much stress and grief all at once can do that to a person. As hard as I try, I can't figure it out. I feel like a two year old: but why? why? why? Does it even matter? I want to make sense of it so that I can move forward, but maybe it's not even necessary to figure it out. What's essential is to grow from it. I don't regret anything. But what I do need to do right now is climb my way out of this pit of fear that has grown like a cancer in my gut.
What I want to do more than anything is just read. I want to read and read and read. But I am so tired of feeling the nag of guilt everytime I do anything that isn't my thesis. I need to finish what I've started so that I can breath freely once again--because this wordlessness is beginning to eat me alive.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Wishing for more time to read makes me miss my travels in India. I read a lot there...and, for some reason, kept track of it. In the back of a small leather bound journal is a list, over a hundred books long. I wrote, read, meditated, did yoga, ate (too much) food, drank (never enough) tea, made friends, and read and wrote some more.
Right now I'm sitting at the coffee shop--passing time before work. Vinny drops me off on his way to teach, which gives me a full two hours of reading, writing, and people watching time before I need to be at the bookstore. There's an old man that comes here every day at 8:15. He reminds me of my grandpa. He is old, but refined. He smiles a lot and is always the first to get here before all of his friend. He finds a table and always makes sure there are enough chairs for when they arrive. Last week, while watching him, I found myself nearly in tears over how much I miss my grandpa's smile. He passed away a year and a half ago. I never realized until he was gone that he was the glue that held my dad's side of the family together. He used to pull quarters out of my ears when I was little. His name was Jack.
These two hours go by fast, but sitting here is the one thing I like best about sharing a car. Actually, it's the only thing I like about sharing a car.
I was tired this morning. So tired. The snooze went off a thousand times. Buzzing and ringing--such confusion. I stayed up last night finishing a chalk drawing for the bookstore...which makes it a worthwhile kind of tired. It makes me laugh that, these days, I'm getting PAID to do CHALK DRAWINGS!!! ha! I knew that last summer's sidewalk art would be good for something. My love for independent bookstores grows deeper every day. I will admit though, that sidewalks make a better canvas than actual chalk boards. hmm....who knew?
It is a rainy, dreary day in the city. There is a coffee cup the size of my head sitting next to me. I am oddly in love with my life today. This feeling, it comes and goes. But today...I feel like anything is possible.
...I'm looking forward to going home after work and WRITING. Not for my blog--but for real (not that blog writing isn't real). If I slip off the planet for a couple days, you'll know why. Please excuse my possible absence.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Friday, November 10, 2006
We don't let her in very often because, if we do, she starts expecting it...not to mention that, considering she'd eat the cats if given the opportunity, it just doesn't work out well for anyone (especially the cats!). Lately though, I miss having an indoor dog like mad. I love having a big dog laying at my feet when I sit at my desk. I love having an animal take up more room than me in my bed. I love having a dog to lay on the couch with and use for a leg pillow. I (kinda) love having to step over or around the dog a hundred times while cooking dinner; or to talk to while I fold laundry; or to fall asleep on the bathroom floor when I take a bubble bath or.... yeah, I just miss having an indoor dog. And now that it's getting colder out, and not as comfortable to sit outside for hours on end, I miss Anu too. She still gets lots of attention...to the almost-ridiculous degree that the neighbors are not unaccustomed to me sitting in the middle of the yard in my down jacket just so I can give her extra love (luckily they understand these strange urges of the heart), but it just isn't the same. You know?
Lately...Anu's been getting (even more) spoiled. This is the second time in a week I've brought her inside. It's kind of a process just bringing her in--but once it's done, ahhhhh... after that it's nothin' but pure doggie bliss. Then again, it works both ways...I suppose you could call it pure Jessie bliss, too.
and for today's math lesson:
toasty crackling fireplace + big, furry dog + chamomile tea = heaven to the nth degree.
(...and I haven't even lit the fire yet!)
ps. the photos are from a couple days ago. i've been wanting to post them, but didn't get a chance until now.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
if your life were a soundtrack, what would the music be?
here's how it works:
1. open your library (iTunes, winamp, media player, iPod)
2. put it on shuffle
3. press play
4. for every question, type the song that's playing
5. new question-- press the next button
6. don't lie and try to pretend you're cool
From the soupy cauldren of my ipod:
"Pass You By"--Gillian Welch (Revival)
"The Glow"--Bonnie Raitt (Bonnie Raitt Collection)
(If I ever woke up as a drug addict, drunk, and really lonely...well then, I guess this would be the perfect song...not that there haven't been days like that, but...)
first day at school:
"You"--Bonnie Raitt (Longing In Their Hearts)
(repeat artist--fluke of the ipod--bad 80's version.)
falling in love:
"Nature"--India.Arie (Acoustic Soul)
"I Don't Think So"--Shelby Lynn (Identity Crisis)
"Don't Call Us"--Taj Mahal (Blue Light Boogie)
"Mon Amant de La Coloniale--Edith Piaf (LaVie En Rose)
"Godchild"--Miles Davis (Birth of the Cool)
(hmmm...never knew a mental breakdown would have such a great beat)
"I'll Fly Away"--Alison Kraus and Gillian Welch
(Perfect! You should hear me belt out this tune while driving.)
"Come In From the Cold"--Joni Mitchell
getting back together:
"Teach Me Tonight"--George Winston (Plains)
"I Choose"--India.Arie (Testimony: Vol. 1, Life and Relationship)
(Yep. I should sing this one to myself on occassion.)
birth of child:
"Land"--Patti Smith (Horses)
(good lord. I mean, I love this song...but, yeah... interesting.)
"Ex Factor"--Lauryn Hill (The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill)
"Al Otro Lado Del Mar"--Christopher Peacock
"Cómo Sé"--Juilieta Venegas (eXotica: World Music Divas)
"Country Road"--James Taylor (Greatest Hits)
(*smiling.* I guess this soundtrack came from a movie that, even though there were hardships, you can walk away from feelin' good. And that was the last anyone ever saw of her.....................................)
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
I'll tell you though, the best thing about this job is walking to work. And the best part about that is reading while I walk. I love reading and walking. It is, what I would consider, one of life's simple pleasures. Today I started Time Was Soft There, by Jeremy Mercer. Although I haven't gotten very far, it is so far so good. I picked it up several times at the bookstore while checking inventory and finally bought it because the description of the book on the back made me think of my own life, both past and present. Sometimes books nag at me until I just go ahead and read them. This was one of them. I looked at the title and tried to think of the periods in my life when time was soft. Over and over I did this...but whenever I watched the mental map of my life unfold, it led right to where I am. So, although I miss those times, I'm thankful to have lived them in the first place.
I'm also thankful that I can walk to work, with barely the need to look up from my book. I was totally calm about my first day until about an hour before I had to leave. Then I got nervous. Walking and reading calmed me down considerably. I worked outside most of the day and watched finches hop along the garden pots looking for seed. I watched the most incredible sunset ever. I had a few very interesting conversations with my new boss (it was just the two of us--we did the same trek in the Himalayas of Nepal! and reminisced about our favorite villages). I laughed a lot and was quiet a lot (both felt nice). I strung up christmas lights. I bonked my head on a bird feeder (hard!). I swept. I sat. I watched the clock. I met some more of the neighborhood. I thought about when time was soft. I decided that today falls into that category.
And then I walked home in the warmest, softest November night I can ever remember.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Before today I had not painted since August, right before Vinny and I moved. The last thing I painted was a portrait of Tara Dawn and her sister. I was thankful that she asked me to do it, because if she hadn't I would have let life get in the way. Life was busy then. But, then again, when isn't it?
These days I haven't been "letting" myself paint. I say this because, at some point, I made the decision that what I really need to do is focus on my thesis. I promised myself that I wouldn't get carried away by any big painting projects until I finished the thesis. One thing I know about myself is that I tend to focus my creative energy on only one thing at a time. If I'm writing, I'm writing. If I'm doing ceramics, I'm doing ceramics. If I'm painting, I'm painting. I've always wanted my creative endeavors to overlap, but I'm rarely able to do so successfully. So I made this promise to myself because, damnit, I want to finish this thesis and be done with grad school.
I've been feeling good about the amount of writing I've been doing lately. And I feel good about this renewed sense of commitment I have with writing. I use a different part of my brain for writing than I do for painting. I feel my writing brain becoming stronger and more flexible. It feels wonderful, liberating, like there were doves caught in some sort of mental muck that needed to be set free. But my recent dedication to writing has been at the great expense of painting.
I go to coffee shops nearly every day--and all of the coffee shops I frequent display work by local artists. Each time, I literally have to stop myself from asking if they have any upcoming openings when I could show my work. It nearly leaps right out of my mouth before I make a conscious effort to hold my tongue while I mentally remind myself that I need to finish my thesis first!
The ill-formed logic is obvious, I'm sure. But I've been maintaining this attitude for several months now. Meanwhile, my paint brushes have been collecting dust...and a part of my heart, too.
The other day at work something happened to jolt me out of my militant mind-set towards art and writing. When I was hired at the bookstore they asked if I would be willing to do artwork for the store. We will soon be doing a new window display for the holiday season and I, of course, was happy to volunteer my time to paint the window. Then, because the owner had never seen my work, he changed his mind. Instead, he asked me to bring in some samples of my work. He was unsure of me. It made me feel like a total nobody, but I understand (having standards is a good thing). The next day I brought in the samples. He was impressed and advised me to show my work somewhere--as though this was a new idea.
First of all, let me just say that he is a very nice man, a good boss, and has been friendly to me since the very beginning. Secondly, he meant those words purely as a compliment.
But, I'll tell you, it bothered me. Because the thing is that he doesn't know that I have exhibited my work. Actually, until I moved, I was having shows on a regular basis. I felt like he thought I was inexperienced and, well, this bothered me. A lot. Not because of him, but because, at that moment, I realized that in the past 2 1/2 months I have grown dangerously distant from my artwork.
That was Saturday. Since then I've been trying to make sense of where I need to be right now in terms of writing and in terms of painting. There's a part of me that wonders if maybe it was just my ego that flared up at his comment. There's another, more important, part of me that wonders if my painting-heart is gasping for air and trying desperately to get my attention.
Today I worked in my studio. And it felt good. More than good--I was giddy, ridiculously giddy. I could barely contain myself. There's a full length mirror in the studio and I found myself dancing in front of it (don't laugh!). I was smiling so big that I barely recognized myself. I sang and talked to myself and then got to work...but not before turning up the music just a little bit more. I was in full-blown ecstatic glory. And this carried on for several hours.
In that time, I painted and played around with new ideas for shows in my head. I tend to work in series and, when the ideas really take hold, they have the potential to take over my life for months at a time.
I'm not sure my heart has ever felt pulled, so persistently, in different directions. Right now I have taffy heart. For now I can only say that I will try my best to honor the most sacred parts of myself--both painting and writing.
My life needs to move forward. And right now there are strings holding me to commitments that I need to fulfill. Finishing my Masters is important to me. Continuing to paint is also important. It is difficult to know how to proceed.
Monday, November 06, 2006
I couldn't put it down. I went to bed late...then I was nearly in tears over my morning coffee...and again over my lunch.
It's about a 13-year-old Nepalese girl, Lakshmi, who lives in the mountains, but is sold into prostitution by her step-father. It's written in short, poetic vignettes. And, well...let me just say that I don't know when the last time it was that I read something so heartbreakingly powerful. It is full of beauty in ways that I cannot explain.
I would write more about it...but I want you to read it instead.
Read an excerpt here.
Read the book jacket summary here.
Buy it here.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
I find it difficult to come up with something interesting to say for this week's Sunday Scribbling because I write about morning just about every damn day...which led to me thinking: what are the recurring themes of this blog?...which led to me thinking about how absolutely redundant I am.
Last night I temporarily moved "shop" out to the dining room table. I needed a change of scenery. And this morning, when I returned, the sun was shining through the window at an angle that landed perfectly on the sky of a painting I have leaned up against the wall. I like to think of these stacks of paintings I have leaned up on nearly every wall of the house as "painterly"...but, in all reality, it is more like "neglected." Needless to say, today's neglected pile of paintings are having a nice effect on my writing space.
Lately I've been taking my writing with me more often. I might even have it in my head that I can't write unless something on the outside of me feels new. Of course, this is a dangerous belief. It relies on too many things. (such as right now. it is hard to write with v. rattling the sunday paper next to me--bless his heart--it's driving me crazy)
...which, naturally, leads to a few words about distraction. Never mind that this post is no longer even about "Morning." I've been getting good at writing about anything and everything other than what I actually sit down to write. But, about distraction, I've been reading Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction, and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life, by Bonnie Friedman. First of all, let me just say that I love it... and I have Mardougrrl to thank for pointing it out to me in that big, wonderful bookstore she brought me to a couple weeks ago. I was in heaven and happy as hell to have found a new book on writing--just when I thought I had already read all the good ones! Of course, it should come as no surprise that my favorite chapter so far is "Message from a Cloud of Flies: On Distraction." A good 3/4s of the chapter is now covered in underlines and margin notes to myself...with double underlines and a box around these words:
"It was my very commitment to writing that kept me from it. I wanted so much for it to be that ideal, submerged experience that I put it off. I saved it up. I longed for it, missed it, got bitchy about it, petulant, then again thought of it with a pang--an adored but long-gone love. What if the cherished one really isn't so beautiful after all? What if he turns out to be, upon reunion, slow, dumb, greedy, with lips that are thin and colorless--not at all as you'd remembered!
You love your work, so you don't touch it. You love your writing, so it's the very thing you must not do at all. You could not tolerate it if it didn't come out well. You could not tolerate yourself. You are thinking about the work, thinking about yourself, looking at the surface of the water, looking at the choppy face looking back"
And I can't even tell you how absolutely tired I am of being afraid of failing myself. Like Friedman, I think that the best writing is not about control, but release. Oh, sweet release. I do most of my writing early in the morning or late at night...when I'm most easily able to surrender my hopes and just write.
Last night, while walking with Anu, I was thinking about all of the recent writing obligations I've placed upon myself and how they are making me feel. I hate to burst any bubbles, but let me just say that I am absolutely hating NaNoWriMo. Sure, it's been a good jumpstart to get me writing more seriously again. I have been loving my life as a born-again-writer. I write in odd places. Randomly. I eat in restaurants that inspire me. Words and ideas are swimming around in my head like slippery fish.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
As I walked, I leaned my head back to see the heavy orb of moon obstructed only by the limbs of knarly old oak trees--thick lines running through a cracked egg. And, at that particular moment, I felt myself planted firmly in two worlds--one of the city, and one of nature. I know I've said that before, but the balance felt good and so Anu and I started running...just for the sake of running. We carried an even pace (along with a few backsteps and sidesteps for fun) down the streets of our neighborhood and I liked the way it felt so we continued further than planned. Anu trotted ahead of me holding the leash gently in her mouth as I observed how beautiful she becomes when she's happy. We ran even further because I love the way we are able to communicate happiness through such simple action.
But, having just returned, I'm left with a question: why does running feel so much better when I don't plan it? hmmm...kinda like writing. I complicate these tasks with my own head whenever I set out to do them intentionally. It is when I try to get serious about these things that everything stops.
Why does that happen? And is there really such a thing as purposeful surrender?
Friday, November 03, 2006
This morning I felt (feel) overwhelmed. Like always, I am trying to do too much at once. I am having a hard time balancing work, family, friends, animals, writing, art, day-to-day stuff, and time with V. I just want to write and create. I am longing for a retreat that I cannot have. One that lasts for several months and carries me long into winter and deep into the woods. Into the woods--literally and metaphorically.
Today I don't feel like I have time to write as well as I'd like to about last night's performance. But let me just say, that it was beautiful.
Vinny and I sat in the third tier, almost at the very back. And, first of all, let me also say that Orchestra Hall is a very beautiful building. We were far enough away that the musicians looked like little more than quarter inch specs. And so, when the lights dimmed and the music started, I closed my eyes.
It started out quiet and low. Very quiet. Almost inaudible. And slowly, slowly...the sound grew. From the first pull of the strings, the bass nested itself somewhere deep inside of me. As cellos and violins were added, I felt it grow, expand. I didn't hear the music. I felt it. I cannot describe the effects of such harmony. But what I can say is that my body disappeared. Every molecule, every fiber of my being became the music. At one point I had to open my eyes because I got scared. I couldn't feel me anymore. I was vibration. Tumbling through space... I was the blue of the ceiling, the honey-brown of the wood walls. I was the air itself. I was blackness. It was frightening and exquisite all at once. I was afraid and so I opened my eyes. I had to do this on several occasions just to regain my bearings. And, each time, all I could think was how in awe I was that human beings are capable of such beauty. Such incredible harmony. Layers upon layers of sound. It was truly awesome. I would open my eyes and, each time, was entirely surprised to see people, real people creating that sound--together.
I sat there listening, feeling, and thinking about the ways that we, each of us, are connected--like music. I wish I knew the language of music so that I could explain myself more eloquently. I was thinking about how all of our actions, moods, words, creations, interactions...how they create layers of harmony or disharmony. And in the middle of this thought the orchestra did something amazing and carried a note together so flawlessly that it created a wall of sound as perfect as the sky. It was a sound the color of the setting sun. There were pinks and blues and small amounts of pale orange that shifted into lavender and strange greys.
Something new has opened up inside of me and will never be the same again. Such beauty. I am in awe of what we are capable of.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
...but I am exhausted.
Note to self: write about it tomorrow.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
In all reality I probably should have signed up for NaBloPoMo instead, which requires a more realistic goal of writing a blog post every day this month rather than a whole novel. Ok...but I'm an idiot and I didn't learn about NaBloPoMo until it was too late. I'm also a pathetic procrastinator...which is why I have decided to sign up for anything at all in the first place. But I'm awake, right? And I'm drinking admirable amounts of coffee, right? And I'm crazy, right? Yes, I'm certifiably crazy because, this morning, I also signed up for NaBloPoMo to guard against impending failure. These days I feel a little bit like the Roadrunner--evasively avoiding capture by any one thing. Or maybe I just like acronyms...
Whatever the case, TODAY is DAY ONE of something. Whatever it is. I woke up this morning thinking that today should be the Thanksgiving of Writing. I think it would be nice if someone could make it an international holiday...one that we could all celebrate together and finally get serious about the illusive "book" we all want to write. Well, ok...these days I don't so much care about a "book." What I'm interested in are words. Appoximately 50,000 of them or at least enough for a damn thesis. Maybe my thesis should be about blogging rather than travel writing. I'd be done! Anyway, I'm haphazard at best. Blogging is a good reflection of my life these days. Travel writing just makes my feet itch. It makes my my brain get excited. I'm a traveler who hasn't traveled in too long. Reaching into that part of my brain and trying to remain focused is difficult. I can't sit still...
...but that's why I'm trying to trick myself with strange acronyms, a secret blog, a new journal, exercise, caffeine, and occasional lunch dates with myself at the Tibetan restaurant. Vegetable momos could quite possible power me through anything. Turkish coffee is a good source of writing power as well. And starting today I need to know these tricks.
Did I mention that I got another job? Yeah, so my days as a part-time "stay-at-home-writer" were short lived. 2 1/2 weeks, to be exact. Besides doing all this writing and working at the bookstore, I'll also be helping out at our neighborhood garden store. I'm slightly resentful that it will be taking away from my writing time...but I'm also looking forward to it because it's within walking distance and I'll be working with a very intresting bunch of women. I'll be selling christmas trees and tending bon-fires and sipping hot chocolate from the coffee shop next door because I'll most likely be freezing my ass off. It should be fun. Oh--I make myself laugh. I'm a glutton for punishment. I know this about myself...but I don't know what to do about it.
At the moment I'm jamming out to James Brown, slightly freaking out from all the caffeine already in my system, and wishing all the rest of you crazy writer-types...